Sudurpaschim ill-equipped to fight Covid-19 pandemicMost government hospitals in the province are reeling under a shortage of medical equipment and proper infrastructure.
In Sudurpaschim Province, the first case of coronavirus was detected in a Gulf returnee on March 27. The province was not prepared to handle coronavirus cases just then but five months have passed and the provincial government is still floundering in its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, say health workers.
Dr Hemraj Pandey, chief at Seti Provincial Hospital in Dhangadhi, says health institutions in the province are still short of infrastructure and medical equipment crucial in the fight against Covid-19. In March, there were a total of nine ICU beds and six ventilators in the entire province. The number has only increased negligibly—with 18 ICU beds and 13 ventilators in various government hospitals in the province at present. Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus infections has crossed 6,000 in Sudurpaschim in the same time period.
“The province added only nine ICU beds and seven ventilators in its government hospitals in the last five months,” said Pandey.
There were five ICU beds in Seti Provincial Hospital and four ICU beds in Mahakali Hospital in Kanchanpur. Seti now has 10 ICU beds, eight of which are equipped with ventilators. “The medical equipment we have with us right now falls short to handle the number of cases we receive everyday,” Pandey said. “Coronavirus patients in critical condition need to be put on ventilator support and some need ICU care. But we have a limited number of ventilators and ICU beds at the hospitals.”
Until Thursday, 11 Covid-19 patients died and 6,226 individuals tested positive for coronavirus in the province, according to the Ministry of Social Development of Sudurpaschim. Fifty-eight Covid-19 patients are in critical conditions and are currently receiving treatment at various hospitals.
There are 18 government hospitals in Sudurpaschim Province. Out of them, only Seti and Mahakali Hospitals have ICU facilities. Mahakali Hospital has only eight ICU beds and three ventilators, says Dr Hari Shrestha, chief at the hospital.
“We started with four ICU beds and we have managed to add only four more, even when the caseload is increasing everyday. We are struggling to accommodate new coronavirus patients,” he said.
In April, the provincial government had decided to add 20 ventilators with ICU beds in various hospitals of the province. Both Seti and Mahakali Hospitals were to receive three ventilators with ICU beds each and seven district hospitals were to receive two ventilators with ICU beds each from the provincial government. But none of the hospitals have been equipped with the promised medical equipment.
According to the Province Health Logistics Management Centre, the procurement process for the above-mentioned medical equipment is to be done in two phases.
“In the first phase, we are purchasing monitors for ventilators and ICU beds. In the second phase, we will purchase other necessary equipment. We have already signed agreements with various medical supply companies,” said Laxmi Shrestha, information officer at the centre.
But since the procurement process of expensive medical equipment is complex, there has been a setback in the purchase, says Dr Gunaraj Awasthi, director at the Provincial Health Directorate.
“There has been a delay in the purchase of the equipment mostly because of the procurement process. The process is technical and complex because it involves inviting tender, making agreements and performing quality checks,” he said. “But we have completed the process now.”
In the current fiscal year, the provincial government in Sudurpaschim has allocated budget to purchase 30 additional ventilators.