Kathmandu, May 13
As coronavirus cases are surging in the country, hospitals designated for treatment of the disease have started facing shortage of beds, exposing a fault line in the fight against COVID-19.
Narayani Hospital in Parsa, which has now emerged as a coronavirus hotspot, for example, has allocated 70 of its beds for coronavirus treatment. All of them are now occupied. This is not a good sign for a district, which is home to almost 69 per cent of the 83 COVID-19 patients detected throughout the country yesterday.
Coronavirus Special Hospital in Butwal is facing the same problem. It has dedicated 36 of its beds for treatment of COVID-19. And all of them are occupied. So, a new coronavirus patient who was initially taken to the hospital yesterday was referred to Bhim Hospital in Rupandehi.
“We won’t be able to take in new coronavirus patients for now as all beds are occupied,” said Rudra Bhandari, medical officer at Lumbini Provincial Hospital, where the special hospital has been established. Although plans are afoot to add 200 more beds in the special hospital for treatment of COVID-19, it is not known when they will materialise.
“If necessary, we may have to stop other health services and use all our 260 beds in the hospital to treat coronavirus patients,” said Bishnu Gautam, the hospital’s health administrator. But this will affect other healthcare services, affecting patients who visit the hospital for treatment of other diseases.
Nepal has so far detected 243 coronavirus patients, of whom 35 have recovered while 208 are undergoing treatment in hospitals across the country. Most of those who are undergoing treatment are asymptomatic.
“If the government cannot add beds immediately, it should introduce a policy on management of asymptomatic patients so that beds could be allocated for severely ill patients,” said Madan Kumar Upadhyaya, medical superintendent at Narayani Hospital. “Otherwise, we’ll face difficulty in treating serious cases if we start getting them.”
The government has dedicated 3,209 hospital beds for coronavirus treatment. But they are scattered across the country in small numbers. Take the example of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, the only hospital in the country established to treat infectious diseases such as COVID-19. It has 30 isolation beds and 20 intensive care unit beds to treat coronavirus patients, which many health experts say are not adequate if the number of COVID-19 cases surges in the country.
“We can deal with this problem of scarcity of hospital beds if asymptomatic coronavirus patients are treated at the community level by putting beds in places such as schools. We can then use hospital beds for treatment of severe cases,” said Prakash Bahadur Thapa, medical superintendent of Bheri Hospital, where 25 of the 35 beds dedicated for coronavirus treatment have been occupied.
The Ministry of Health and Population is aware of this problem. But it still has not taken measures to deal with this issue.
“We are thinking of adding hospital beds and are also considering using schools to treat coronavirus patients,” said Samir Kumar Adhikari, assistant spokesperson for the health ministry.