Fuel, medicine shortage paralyses Valley hospitals

NMA president says if the shortage persists for another week, hospitals may be shut

Kathmandu, October 8

The blockade imposed by the agitating Madhes-based parties on the Nepal-India border is having an adverse impact on the health sector in the Kathmandu Valley, as hospitals are running out of basic medical supplies and fuel to run generators.

Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, president of the Nepal Medical Association, warned that if the fuel shortage continued for another week, hospitals would have no choice but to shut down. “Health sector is facing its worst crisis. The government should take immediate steps to resolve the crisis,” he added. Hospitals also need fuel for intensive care, surgeries and incubation, apart from running refrigerators and other medical equipment.

Dr Swayam Prakash Pandit, director at the Bir Hospital, said ambulances had been grounded due to acute fuel shortage. “This has restricted the movement of emergency medical workers. We have made arrangements for shuttle bus service to pick and drop the doctors,” he told The Himalayan Times. Dr Pandit said vital and emergency services had been affected yet.

Nepal Electricity Authority has not cut power supply to hospitals to help them cope with the fuel shortage. “We have been getting uninterrupted power supply from the NEA after we requested it for the same,” said Dr Pandit.

However, hospitals have been witnessing low turnout of patients, as the fuel crisis has crippled public transport services. “The number of patients at the Out-Patient Department has dropped by 50 per cent in the past one-and-a-half months after thousands of patients referred to central hospitals from the districts could not arrive in the capital,” Dr Pandit said. On normal days, around 3,000 patients visit Bir Hospital.

Thousands of patients have not been able to visit TU Teaching Hospital, Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre, Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital and Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital due to the fuel crisis, the hospital authorities said.

Mrigendra Meher Shrestha, president of Nepal Chemists and Druggists Association, said drug retailers and wholesalers were running out of anesthesia, live-saving drugs and pantoprazole injections as it has not been able to transport them to pharmacies across the country. “Medicines worth crores of rupees have been stranded on the Nepal-India border due to ongoing blockade by Madhes-based parties. What is more worrisome is that we do not even have fuel to transport drugs we have in our stock to pharmacies within the capital. The government should provide us fuel so that we can transport essential drugs to pharmacies,” he said.

Balkrishna Khakurel, director general at the Department of Drug Administration, said the government was preparing to import medicines by plane from countries other than India. “We have also decided to provide fuel to drug distributors,” he informed.