Hospitals in Nepal run short of oxygen, turn away COVID-19 patients

Published: May 12,2021 12:25 PM

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Several hospitals in and around Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu have started turning down patients following the government's decision to cap the supply of life-saving medical oxygen.

May 12, 2021: Several hospitals in and around Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu have started turning down patients following the government's decision to cap the supply of life-saving medical oxygen, thereby affecting operation of hospitals treating the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Nepal Medical College, a hospital in Kathmandu on Tuesday issued a notice asking family members and relatives of all its patients to arrange oxygen cylinders on their own, warning the hospital would only be able to provide it till 4 PM.

In its notice, the hospital also acknowledged Municipality, Police and Health Ministry about the cause for turning away the patients. At the time of issuance of a notice, there were 99 COVID-19 infected patients under observation.

Soon after issuance of the notice, 22 managed to get transferred to another hospital including one COVID infected patient who was undergoing observation at ICU.

"Number of infected ones are increasing and in the meantime supply of oxygen has been limited that's why we had to turn away patients from our hospital," Dr. Raj Kishor Shrestha, Director of the hospital said.

One of the biggest private hospitals in Kathmandu Valley, the Nepal Mediciti Hospital of Lalitpur on Tuesday issued a release stating it cannot admit patients after running out of oxygen. Mediciti has also stated shortage of oxygen as its reason to turn away patients.

For the time being, the hospital has stated that it would be unable to admit any kind of patient for treatment or observation and it would issue a release after easement in the situation about re-opening of its door for treatment.

"We need about 450 to 500 oxygen gas cylinders but the government has capped our supply to 100 cylinders per day," Dr. Raj Rana, Medical superintendent at the hospital complained.

Other hospitals including Medicare, Helping Hands, India-Friendly and Dirghayu Hospital on Sunday had issued a similar notice stating their doors were closed for patients until further notice as they run out of supply of oxygen.

"We are turning away patients who need oxygen. We cannot admit patients here until the situation eases as it would bring on unpleasant results if we take admissions," Hari Bhakta Sigdel, Administrative Manager at Medicare Hospital said.

Another Private Hospital in Kathmandu, the Om Hospital also put up a notice stating it would not be able to give admission to new patients under the new provision of government which caps the flow of oxygen to the hospitals.

"Under the capping made by the government on oxygen supply, we are unable to take admissions despite our willingness to provide service. We have enough manpower such as doctors and nurses to take care of patients but no enough oxygen supply," the hospital said in a release.

Many of the hospitals in Nepal lack oxygen supply as they don't have their own oxygen plant or are dependent on others for the supply.

The Crisis Management Center (CCMC) has capped the number of oxygen cylinders to each hospital. As per the government figures, demand for oxygen at the hour of pandemic stands at 15,000 cylinders while the supply stands as low as 10,000.

"We have managed to refill oxygen cylinders in the districts which are less hit by the pandemic. Arrangements have been made outside Kathmandu Valley to get the cylinders refilled, on Tuesday only we sent two hundred cylinders to Pokhara to refill," Secretary of CCMC Khagraj Baral claimed.

The death rate of Nepal has continued to soar in recent days as hospitals around the nation face a crunch in the supply of the live-saving gas. On Sunday, Nepal recorded 88 deaths due to COVID-19 while on Monday it rose to 139, and on Tuesday it reached 225. On average, one COVID-19 patient is dying every six minutes.

COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel is overseeing the supply of oxygen to hospitals.