Lockdown transport woes for cancer, kidney patients

Kathmandu, March 30

Cancer and kidney patients have been facing difficulty after the government put Nepal under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. Due to lack of transportation services, it has been difficult for them to get dialysis or chemotherapy radiation, along with regular health services.

Some of the relatives of patients suffering from cancer and kidney ailments THT spoke to said they were unable to visit hospitals.

“There are no vehicles. None of the taxi drivers are willing to take us to the hospital. There are limited ambulances. Today, after multiple requests, a taxi driver helped me bring my mother to Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital. She has been admitted to the hospital for her second cycle of chemotherapy,” said Arbindra Thapa, a resident of Sunakothi.

“Though we have admitted her, I am facing difficulty with transportation. It is difficult for me to take food to her. The canteen in the hospital is closed. We need to provide proper diet to the patient,” added Thapa.

Hospitals have also limited services in view of the coronavirus spread. After the government directed hospitals to shut out-patient department services to help prevent spread of coronavirus, chronic and immune compromised patients have not been able to get their health checked.

“My wife needs radiotherapy. Her tenth cycle has been completed. She needs 20 more cycles of radiation, but it has been halted now. Sores have developed in her mouth. I have not been able to take her to the hospital. I have been contacting the hospital so that we could get the service,” said Shivaraj Shrestha, a cancer patient’s relative.

Some patients have availed the hospital’s shuttle services, but it is not practical for everyone to do so.

Priyanka Kamatad, a resident of Jadibuti, Koteshwor, whose sister has been visiting Shahid Dharmabhakta National Transplant Centre for dialysis, is among those who avails hospital’s shuttle service. But she has other complaints. “The duration of dialysis has been decreased from four to three hours. We need to take our sister for dialysis twice a week. The shuttle bus is usually packed,” she added.

“My mother has developed allergies. Had there been no lockdown, we would have taken her immediately to the hospital. But since transportation is not available these days, I have not been able to take her to the hospital. She needs chemotherapy and the hospital we have been consulting has assured it will send an ambulance for her next cycle,” a patient’s relative told THT.

“Earlier, about 120 to 130 people used to get radiation therapy per day and 25 people used to get chemotherapy. Cancer patients are immune-compromised and need to be protected from infection. We have been providing emergency health services. Radiation and chemotherapy have been halted for those patients for whom it can be delayed. Others are being treated. Only ten per cent patients who need radiation and chemotherapy visit the hospital,” said Ujjwal Raj Chalise, head of department of Radiation at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital.