Govt says ICU beds are available, but hospitals have a different story to tell

Published On: May 7, 2021 03:39 PM NPT By: Kunga Hyolmo

There are 754 ICU beds and 365 ventilators available in various hospitals across the country, according to the latest data from MoHP.

KATHMANDU, May 7: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, in his recent address to the nation, said that no one would have to die for lack of treatment. But the day after his address, news of a man dying due to COVID-19 in Dhanusha after several hospitals refused to admit him, sent shockwaves through social media and news outlets.

People are dying daily due to lack of oxygen and hospital treatments. News of COVID-19 patients committing suicide in home isolations is also not new. Hospitals designated for COVID-19 treatments are already overwhelmed. But the government data tells a different story.

As per the latest data issued by the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) on Thursday, there are currently 1,406 ICU beds across the country, of which only 652 are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Likewise, there are 566 ventilators in various hospitals across the country, and of them only 201 are occupied. This shows that there are still 754 ICU beds and 365 ventilators available across the country.

However, health workers and officials in COVID-19 hospitals have different stories to tell. According to Ram Bikram Adhikari, Deputy Controller and the Information Officer at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), there are currently no vacant ICU beds. “As many as 202 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to the hospital in the last 24 hours. All available beds fully occupied” he said. “I have no idea where the government gets its information from.”

Likewise, Dr Anup Bastola of Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital has a similar story to tell. “Not a single bed is vacant in the Hospital. We are treating COVID-19 patients on chairs and hospital corridors, and I have no idea where the government sees unoccupied ICU beds,” he said.

Dr Jageshwar Gautam, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), was reluctant to state that there are vacant ICU beds. “There could have been errors in collecting data ,but it is true that there are vacant ICU beds,” he said. “All the non-COVID ICU beds in hospitals across the country are gradually being transformed into COVID-ICU beds. During this time, only COVID-19 patients visit hospitals and seek ICU beds, and that's why ICU beds are available,” he added.

While the government states that there are enough ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, the number of people dying from the disease is making new records everyday. As many as 54 people died of the virus in the past 24 hours, and 407 people in the past two weeks. Nepal recorded a grim milestone of 9,070 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, and the case tally went up by 73,979 in the last two weeks.


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