Only Covid-19 hospital in Arghakhanchi does not have intensive care unitThe hospital running on basic medical infrastructure is not equipped to deal with Covid-19 cases, health workers say.
Birendra KC & Hari Gautam
On Tuesday, Dr Kapil Gautam, chief at Arghakhanchi Hospital, requested a Covid-19 patient’s family to look for a hospital with an Intensive Care Facility after the patient’s health worsened. The hospital, the only government health institution to provide healthcare for Covid-19 patients in the district, does not have an ICU.
The hospital administration and the patient’s family searched for an ICU bed in other hospitals of Lumbini Province throughout the day. But there were no beds available at any of the hospitals they contacted.
The patient died at the hospital the same day.
Gautam says the patient was facing difficulty in breathing and was in dire need of an ICU bed with a ventilator.
“But none of the hospitals we reached out to had ICU beds. The patient could have been saved if we had been able to provide the needed treatment on time,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Development in Lumbini Province has delayed providing necessary medical supplies to the hospital, according to Gautam. “I have been requesting ministers and provincial assembly members to manage ventilators and ICU at the hospital. But it has not happened yet,” he said.
The district hospital has been running on basic medical infrastructure and is not equipped to deal with Covid-19 cases, health workers say.
There are currently 24 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment at the hospital. Its 10- bed High Dependency Unit and six general beds are all occupied. Some of the patients have been put on beddings on the floor.
But for the rural population in the district, getting treatment even at the poorly equipped Arghakhanchi Hospital is in itself a huge relief.
Since the hospital is located in Sandhikharka, the district headquarters of Arghakhanchi, people from other parts of the district depend on local health posts that are in worse condition than the district hospital and are run on the bare minimum.
On Wednesday, Shiva Thapa of Thulapokhar in Ward No. 6 of Arghakhanchi visited a local health post for a check-up after suffering from fever and common cold. Health workers at Thulapokhar Health Post gave him some medicines and advised him to rest at home.
Thapa is worried he might have contracted Covid-19. He will have to go to Arghakhanchi Hospital to get a PCR test done.
“The health workers have asked me to do a PCR test if I do not recover even after taking medicines for a few days,” said Thapa. “But we hear that the hospital does not have ICU or ventilators. I am extremely worried.”
Seeking treatment outside the district is also not an option for most, especially those who are in need of immediate critical care, since Butwal, the closest city, is at least a four-hour ride from Sandhikharka, the district headquarters of Arghakhanchi.
Puja BK, also from Thulapokhar, visited the same health post with similar complaints. She was also prescribed some medicines and advised to rest. The health workers suggested she get a PCR test done if her health condition worsens.
According to Thulapokhar Health Post, at least 20 to 30 people visit the health post on a daily basis with complaints of fever and common cold. “Each household has at least three to four family members down with the same symptoms,” said Bishwodev Neupane, in charge of the health post.
“We have requested them to stay alert. Some patients have recovered after taking medicines for common cold and fever whereas some have tested positive for Covid-19,” said Neupane.
According to health workers, a large number of villagers started falling ill in April after they attended several weddings and feasts in the settlements.
Manju Khanal, in charge of Dhakawang Health Post in Ward No. 1 of Bhumikasthan Municipality, says the health post, too, has been seeing an increasing number of patients suffering from fever and cold in the last few weeks.
“We receive 15-25 patients in a day. Most are suffering from fever and cold,” she said. “We ask them to get a PCR test done if they don’t feel better after taking medicines.”
Dhikura Health Post has also been seeing an increasing number of patients seeking treatment for similar illnesses, says Seeta Paudel, an auxiliary nurse midwife at the health facility.
Villages in Sisne Rural Municipality Ward No 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Rukum (East) have been reporting a massive surge in the number of people suffering from fever and cold.
Lokendra Khadka, a local resident of Sisne Rural Municipality Ward No. 3, says almost every household in his village has at least one patient suffering from fever and cold.
“We’ve been informed of fever patients in every house but we haven’t been able to run any Covid-19 tests on them because of a shortage of antigen testing kits,” said Gowardhan Budhamagar, vice chairman of Sisne Rural Municipality.
Similarly, Puthauttarganga Rural Municipality of Rukum (East) has also reported of people falling ill with fever and common cold. “Most think it’s viral fever but we can’t be sure until we get our tests done,” said Man Bahadur Roka, a local resident of Ward No. 8 in Puthauttarganga Rural Municipality.
Samir Giri, the health coordinator of Puthauttarganga Rural Municipality, says they haven’t been able to conduct Covid-19 tests in the rural municipality due to a lack of antigen testing kits.