Sudurpaschim’s biggest hospital is unprepared for Nepal Covid-19 surge

The situation at the Seti Provincial Hospital in Dhangadhi of the Sudurpaschim province is like any other hospital in the country. Its wards are full of Covid-19 patients as the hospital is occupied to the maximum. Doctors, not wanting people to die, have even put up beds on the passageway of the hospital.

Anyone who goes to the biggest hospital in the province will see how dire the situation is. People who are not fortunate to receive oxygen support are struggling to live. Some on the verge of giving up, while some are fighting on. This hospital is another example of Nepal’s lack of preparedness for the ongoing pandemic.

Paying the price for govt apathy

Less than half a kilometre away is the administrative centre of the province where all the top officials reside, including the chief minister’s. Even though they travel past the hospital on an everyday basis, they have done next to nothing to improve the situation.

A permanent Covid-19 hospital, established under the Seti Provincial Hospital, is full of patients. The emergency ward has people who have tested positive and are showing symptoms. The hospital is capable of catering to 55 patients, but currently, it has 60, out of which 12 are critical and are at an ICU.

Three people are relying on ventilators while 35 are on oxygen support. Ten people are being given oxygen if their situation gets worse. Things are only expected to get worse as cases in the country increase in the coming days, says Dilip Kumar Shrestha, the hospital’s information officer.

The sudden rise in the number of Covid-19 patients has risen after the return of migrant workers from India. People at the hospital say that they had time to improve facilities and add more beds in the hospital. But, they say that the provincial government did nothing.

As a result, on Thursday, people were bringing their own beds after the 16-bed emergency ward had none for new patients. The beds were adjusted in the passageway of the hospital as the situation in the hospital is turning dire.

“We’re in dire need of help,” says the hospital’s emergency ward in-charge and senior assistant health worker Bharat Khati. “The number of pneumonia patients coming to the hospital has significantly gone up. Almost everyone is on oxygen support. We’ve had to put patients on the passageway. At this rate, we won’t be able to save lives.”

Fear of oxygen shortage

Khati says that if things continue, there is a good chance that they will also face an oxygen shortage soon.

The Seti Hospital has its own oxygen plant which produces 3,600 kilograms of oxygen on a daily basis. On average, it produces 75 cylinders of oxygen a day. But, that efficiency has decreased, says the hospital.

The facility’s information officer Shreshta says the plant only been able to produce 55-60 cylinders a day.

“With the number of patients increasing, the demand for oxygen has exceeded 150 cylinders a day,” says Shrestha. “We are managing for now. But, if we don’t do something quick to supply oxygen to those in need, things are going to get worse.”

The reason for the lack of efficiency is the oxygen plant not being able to manage loads due to the scorching heat. The hospital, in order to prepare for the worse, is planning to purchase 50 more cylinders to add to the 97 already at the hospital.

Oxygen problems in other parts of the province

The shortage of oxygen is likely to hit Nepal in the same way it did in India. Managing oxygen is becoming a problem in most hospitals in the Sudurpaschim province. 

Mahakali Hospital in Kanchanpur is one of them. The hospital brings oxygen from Dhangadhi and Nepalgunj, but with the number of cases rising, it is been facing difficulties to manage oxygen and patients are facing trouble due to it.

The hospital’s Covid-19 in-charge Dr Govinda Rokaya says the facility used to purchase 40 cylinders a day. But now, due to increasing demand, the hospital is having a hard time purchasing 15.

“There are 60 Covid-19 patients here, out of which six are in the ICU and 15 in the HDU. Likewise, 25 others are on oxygen support,” Rokaya says, “Almost everyone needs oxygen and if the trend continues to increase, we’ll have a hard time managing it.”

The reason he says the hospital is facing trouble purchasing oxygen is others need it too. He fears people might be hoarding it.

Hoping against hope

The Social Development Ministry of the Sudurspachim government has said it has asked the province’s health authority to help the hospitals manage oxygen and asked producers to produce more if they can. The ministry’s spokesperson Narendra Karki says that the officials are talking to various companies to increase the capacity of producing oxygen at the Seti Provincial Hospital. He says the plan is to produce 100 cylinders a day.

“There won’t be any oxygen shortage,” says Karki. “I think the supply will increase when we have enough cylinders. Currently, we don’t have enough cylinders. We’re going to purchase more.”