Villagers in rural parts of Lumbini Province refuse to get tested for Covid-19Coronavirus suspects reluctant to get tested due to social stigma, health workers say.
A 55-year-old man from Rainadevi Chhahara Rural Municipality-2 in Palpa, who was suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms, refused to get tested when the local unit sent a health team to his settlement to collect swab samples of coronavirus suspects for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.
His health deteriorated in the next few days, his family members say, and he was taken to the Lumbini Medical College for a PCR test. His test report confirmed Covid-19 infection.
His family members then took him to the Lumbini Provincial Hospital in Butwal for treatment. But by the time the family managed to secure a bed at the hospital, it was already too late. He died the next day.
“We tried to convince the deceased to undergo a PCR test for timely treatment. But he refused,” said Javanath Pokharel, the ward chief of Rainadevi Chhahara-2.
Another man, aged 49, of the same settlement also died last week for a lack of timely treatment. He, too, had refused to get tested during the health team’s visit.
In the rural areas of Lumbini Province, the local authorities are having a tough time convincing coronavirus suspects to undergo Covid-19 tests. The social stigma associated with Covid-19 and fear of the disease have led the local people to hide their health condition from their neighbours and even family members.
A 49-year-old man, who recovered from Covid-19 and is back home from the hospital, says he was also hesitant at first to get tested for Covid-19 after seeing an infected family in the village being shunned by the villagers.
“The family needed help but were socially boycotted,” he said. “So I also refused to give my swab sample for testing when the health team came to my village. I later visited Tansen Hospital after I had difficulties in breathing.”
He tested positive for Covid-19 on May 21.
Because of the social stigma surrounding Covid-19 patients and fear of hospital visits during the pandemic, coronavirus suspects postpone getting tested and treated, according to health workers. This is also what is leading to community transmission of coronavirus in rural villages of Lumbini.
“The local people do not offer information on their health condition willingly,” Dr Pujan Shrestha, the medical officer at Hungi Health Post in Rainadevi Chhahara, told the Post. “We are only informed about the infection rate when the virus has spread in the community and many people start falling sick with coronavirus-like symptoms. The patients seek medical care only when it’s too late for treatment."
Lal Bahadur Darlami, the ward chief of Rainadevi Chhahara-3, says the people’s representatives and the health officials are making efforts to educate the villagers on Covid-19.
“We have requested the villagers to strictly follow the prohibitory orders and to inform us about any health complications they face,” said Darlami. “We are also trying to dispel the stigma attached to being a Covid-19 patient.”
According to him, seven people in the ward have died of Covid-19 since mid-April. “Most of the deaths occurred for a lack of timely treatment. The patients came to us at the eleventh hour. Many of them died in the course of treatment at various hospitals in Palpa, Butwal and Kathmandu,” he said.
In Rukum (East), a medical team reached Pokhara settlement in Sisne Rural Municipality on May 16 after the health authority was alerted by the people’s representatives of many villagers suffering from fever and common cold.
But only 43 people came to the health camp to get their swab samples tested even though scores of villagers were taken ill.
The medical team reached Nayagadh, another settlement in the local unit, on May 18. Only 44 people gave their swab samples.
Of the 87 samples collected from Pokhara and Nayagadh, 30 tested positive for the virus.
“We dispatched a health team to the settlements where people are suffering from symptoms similar to that of Covid-19. But the suspects refuse to visit the health camp and give their swab samples for PCR test,” said Dr Purna Bahadur Pun, a doctor at the district hospital.
(Hari Gautam in Rukum (East) contributed reporting.)