EDITORIAL: Dire straits

The majority of our hospitals only provide basic medical services while our pathological labs lack sophisticated technologies

The throat swab and blood sample of a 32-year-old Nepali, suspected of being infected with coronavirus, was sent to University of Hong Kong on Tuesday for test. The student, whose identity has been kept secret for privacy reason, had returned from Chinese city of Wuhan. The student was admitted at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital (STIDH), Teku on January 14 after he complained of mild fever, respiratory problems and inflammation in the throat. He was discharged three days later after taking blood and throat swab samples, which were then sent to the University, known as a collaborating centre of the World Health Organisation. Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Department of Health Services, said the laboratory will send its report to the STIDH within two to three days. Only then will the doctors at STIDH be able to confirm where the person concerned is infected with the virus that has recently claimed the lives of six people in China. The decision to send the samples to the University was jointly taken by STIDH, the government and the WHO Country Office in Nepal. The coronavirus which appeared in China develops severe acute respiratory illness and can even lead to death if the affected person does not get immediate medical treatment. The common symptoms of the virus include respiratory complication, fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Nepal does not have sophisticated laboratory to conduct comprehensive tests related to coronavirus. The outbreak of pneumonia in China is believed to have been caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The pneumonia was first transmitted from animal to human but is now found to spread from human to human. The WHO says the total number of people diagnosed with the virus has so far reached 300 in China alone. Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States have also confirmed cases of infected with the virus. With the spread of cases in Asian countries, doctors in Nepal have also cautioned that the virus could affect the people here in Nepal. Doctors have advised the people to take precautionary measures to stay free from it. Washing hand regularly, covering mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and cooking meat and eggs thoroughly and avoiding contact with those people suffering from respiratory illness are the ways to avoid contact with the disease. But these precautionary measures will not be enough to contain the spread in the long run. We need to equip our hospitals with modern labs and trained human resources to deal with such emergencies. The majority of our hospitals only provide basic medical services while our pathological labs lack sophisticated technologies and highly competent lab technicians. We still need to send blood samples abroad even for the leukemia test, which can be done here provided that we have hi-tech pathology labs in our hospitals. By doing this, we can save the lives of the people with less money and time. One of the major reasons why politicians go abroad for medical check-up is due to lack of reliable pathology labs and medical services within the country. When we lack such labs, even the well-trained doctors cannot treat a patient properly. Our ultimate goal should be to make our health services up to the world standard.

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Most crusher industries in Dhading have been found operating unlawfully, destroying the surrounding environment. Not only in Dhading, rampant extraction of sand and pebbles on the banks of different rivers continue unabated across the country. Recently, an environment conservationist was also killed while protesting against illegal mining on the bank of a river in Dhanusa. After the formation of the local levels, the district administration offices have been relieved of their right to shut down illegal mining and crusher industries, while such right has been transferred to the local levels in connection with conservation of natural resources. In 2010, the Supreme Court had ordered the government to shut all illegal crushers and mines.

The big question which still remains unanswered is: Why have the authorities not taken any tangible action? Also, no efforts have been made by the local levels to remove the crusher industries operating illegally. Locals have also accused the people’s representatives of providing protection to crusher operators. The unholy nexus between political leaders and the industry operators must end and the authorities concerned must take stern action against them.