Hospitals ill-equipped to handle COVID-19 patients

Kathmandu, February 26

Hospitals in Kathmandu are not prepared to prevent and contain coronavirus outbreak.

Both government and private hospitals lack manpower, infrastructure, medical equipment and personal protective equipment to fight the disease.

Various government and private hospitals such as Bir Hospital, Patan Hospital, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Bhaktapur Hospital, Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, Norvic International Hospital and Nepal Mediciti Hospital have admitted that they can’t handle the situation if the disease assumes epidemic proportion.

“We have a rapid response team to attend to critical situation.

But we can’t handle too many patients as we lack necessary equipment. We don’t have coronavirus test kits. We can only use available resource,” said an official of Norvic International Hospital in the condition of anonymity.

The hospital has separated six beds for isolation for suspected coronavirus cases.

There have been reports of increased spread of the virus in South Korea, Iran, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan and experts have been suggesting to strengthen preparations.

Patan Hospital, which the government has designated for treatment of suspected cases of coronavirus has only five isolated beds. “Though we have trained manpower we still lack proper infrastructure,” said Dr Bishnu Prasad Sharma, director at Patan Hospital.

Similar is the situation of other hospitals. “We are in a situation to take only five patients to the maximum. We admit immune compromised patients and they are on a regular follow up. These patients are under high risk of infection,” said Jwala Dhakal, infection control nurse at Civil Service Hospital, adding, “Doctors have been saying that critically ill patients require invasive breathing support. But our hospital lacks the facility,” she said.

“Some patients need to be treated in intensive care unit. We have only four ICUs. Patients need to be kept in isolation in ICU. We don’t have that set up,” said Dhakal.

Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, which the government has designated for treatment of suspected coronavirus patients has only three ICUs. World Health Organisation has said infection prevention and control measures include hand hygiene and waste management materials.

Health workers should be provided with gloves, mask and gown. In case of blood or airborne infection, face protection, goggles and mask, gloves, gown or coveralls, head cover and rubber boots, are necessary, according to WHO.

Our hospital does not have complete sets for health workers. “We have been demanding personal protective equipment with the government, but haven’t got any. We also need well trained manpower,” said Dr Kedar Century, director of Bir Hospital.

“We have limited ICU, ventilators and manpower. There is shortage of personal protective equipment in the market,” said Dr Anup Subedi, consultant Infectious Disease Physician at HAMS Hospital.

“We have manpower but we don’t have PPE. When health workers can’t protect themselves how are they going to treat patients?” questioned Dr Prem Krishna Khadga, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, director.

Doctors have suggested that the government provide service from a single hospital to coronavirus suspects.

“If coronavirus suspected patients visit a hospital where there is movement of high number of other patients, there is high chance for the spread of the disease. Therefore, the government should deliver service from a specific hospital,” said Dr Khadga.

Several European countries have announced their first coronavirus cases. Though Nepal has also announced its first case much remains to be done to contain its possible outbreak.

“As global scenario in relation to the disease is changing we need to step-up our preparedness,” said Dr Dirgha Raj RC, director at Civil Service Hospital.