Hospital turning away coronavirus patients for a lack of sufficient oxygen supplyNepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital has oxygen enough for only 127 beds out of the 300 beds for coronavirus patients.
On Monday, a coronavirus-infected woman from Chisapani in Baijanath Rural Municipality waited the whole day outside Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital in Kohalpur for admission. She was sent back home late in the evening, as the hospital did not have any beds available.
For the past few weeks, hospitals in Banke have been overwhelmed with the rising number of coronavirus cases. Most health institutions are ill-equipped to handle the swelling number of coronavirus patients for a lack of supplementary oxygen, ICU beds and human resources.
Banke on Wednesday recorded 591 new cases.
According to Dr Devendra Acharya of Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital, the hospital has to send back at least two to three patients who come for coronavirus treatment on a daily basis because of oxygen shortage.
“Some of the admitted patients have managed oxygen cylinders on their own,” said Acharya. “We haven’t even been able to admit critical patients due to limited oxygen supply at the hospital. We have no other alternative but to turn them away.”
According to Basanta Gautam, coordinator of Advocacy Forum in Banke, the authorities must take responsibility for the poor health infrastructure in the district.
“There are unoccupied beds at the hospital but they are sending away patients citing a shortage of oxygen,” said Gautam. “The government authorities should have managed oxygen, medical equipment and human resources on time.”
Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital has built a 300-bed Covid-19 unit. The hospital has asked the government to arrange for additional supply of oxygen to run the unit.
The hospital has an oxygen liquid tank with a capacity equivalent to that of 1,800 cylinders. However, the oxygen in the liquid tank has already been consumed, said Dr Suresh Kumar Kanodia, managing director at the hospital.
“We have been unable to admit new patients as we are struggling to manage oxygen for the already admitted ones. So the additional beds at the hospital are empty,” he said.
There are two oxygen plants in Nepalgunj with the capacity of producing 1,100 oxygen cylinders on a daily basis. Among them, Bheri Hospital takes 500 cylinders and Nepalgunj Medical College consumes 200 cylinders.
The Nepalgunj-based plant supplies oxygen to Surkhet, Dhangadhi, Dang, Bardiya, Tikapur, Humla and Jumla. The demand for oxygen has also increased given the number of patients staying in home isolation who need oxygen, says Kanodia.
“The 200 oxygen cylinders we get are not enough for 127 patients admitted to the hospital,” said Kanodia. “The hospital is asking suppliers in Bhairahawa, Kathmandu, Birgunj and Chitwan for oxygen.”
“We won’t have to turn patients away if the government supplies sufficient oxygen,” he said. According to him, a patient with serious illness needs 2 to 2.5 oxygen cylinders per day. So Nepalgunj Medical Teaching Hospital needs 500 to 700 oxygen cylinders on a daily basis.
According to Shivaram Gelal, the chief district officer of Banke, Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital has demanded more oxygen after it added 300 beds for Covid-19 patients.
“In the early days, the hospital provided services with the oxygen produced in its oxygen plant. It later put in a demand for 500 oxygen cylinders to run the additional beds,” he said.
While the hospital waits for additional supply of oxygen, the district administration is awaiting the centre’s response to the matter. “We have drawn the attention of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the hospital’s demand for oxygen. It’s an ongoing process,” said Gelal.