Shortage of beds hits spinal injury patients

Kathmandu, May 15

Patients visiting Bir Hospital due to spinal injury have been hit hard due to unavailability of beds at the hospital’s spinal unit. The patients are forced to wait for long for treatment.

Twelve beds separated for patients with spinal injury mostly remain occupied, given the surge of patients in the hospital. Two new patients suffering from spinal injury reach the hospital each day.

As per hospital data, out of 125 spine trauma patients surgically operated between December  2015 and August 2017 at the spine unit of National Trauma Centre, only 4.4 per cent patients were operated within two days after they sustained injuries. A majority or 58.2 per cent were operated within eight to 30 days. Meanwhile, 28.6 per cent were operated within three to seven days and 8.8 per cent were operated after 30 days.

“Fifty-five per cent of patients faced delay in treatment due to unavailability of operation theatre in the hospital,” said Dr Gaurav Raj Dhakal, spine surgeon at National Trauma Centre, Bir Hospital. The hospital conducts surgery on spine injuries for two days a week.

For effective recovery, surgery needs to be carried out within two to four days after the patient is admitted to the hospital. “Neurological status can be recovered and improved in patients if the surgery is done quickly,” said Dr Dhakal. However, only 4.4 per cent patients are operated within two days.

Patients who require surgeries for other spine-related conditions have to wait for  treatment. “If we can increase the number of surgeries, then we can decrease the waiting list of patients. They now have to wait for more than a month for treatment,” said Dr Dhakal.

The hospital has been facing space crunch since the last one year as spine treatment is being offered at affordable cost for the public. The hospital also offers treatment for degenerative spine tumours, deformities and spine infections. An increment in the number of health facilities and referral cases, too, has contributed to increasing number of patients at the hospital, as per the doctor.  Rehabilitation of patients after surgery is part of treatment. The hospital has been referring patients after surgery to Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre. “Had there been a rehabilitation centre within the National Trauma Centre, it would have saved patients’ expenses,” added the doctor.

As the number of patients is on the rise, a separate spine centre that also has its own rehabilitation centre is necessary for treatment and rehabilitation of spinal injury patients in the country, said the doctor. The government has been providing financial assistance of Rs 100,000 for spine injury patients from its Poverty Stricken Citizens Fund.