BANKE, May 16: Sickle cell anemia has emerged as a critical health problem in western Tarai due to lack of proper medical equipment for the treatment of this inherited condition. Patients have been left helpless since the machine used in the treatment of this chronic illness stopped operating at Bheri Provincial Hospital (BPH).
According to the hospital, it has been four months since the machine used for Hemoglobin Electrophoresis stopped working. This has deprived a lot of patients from treatment.
The government has announced to provide free treatment for the patients of sickle cell anemia which is very common among the people of the Tharu community. However, in reality, patients have not been able to get free checkup.
Bheri Provincial Hospital has established 'Sickle Cell' center. As per the announcement of the government, each patient suffering from this illness will be provided with medicines worth Rs 100,000. Dr Sanket Kumar Risal, information officer of the hospital, told Republica that the machine is not in a usable state since the past few months.
The machine was provided to the provincial hospital by Shishas Meditech Pvt Ltd, Durbarmarg, on contract basis. As the machine is produced by a French company, it cannot be repaired in Nepal, according to Sanjeev Chaudhary, medical lab technologist at the hospital.
"We have already informed the company about the problem in the machine but have received no response so far," said Chaudhary. Similarly, Lifotronic H9 HPLC machine provided by the District Public Health Office (DPHO), Banke, has been dumped in the store room since two years after it stopped working.
Another Lab Technologist Prachanda Sharma said, "We knew that the machine provided by the DPHO was not good but still they handed it over to us. It didn't work from the beginning and that's why it is in the store room right now."
As per the record maintained by the BPH, altogether 665 sickle cell patients have been provide with medicines worth Rs 100,000 as assured by the government.
Meanwhile, civil society leaders have pressurized the hospital to repair the machine as soon as possible. Dr Rupananda Adhikari, chief of the BPH, said that preparations are underway to take the machine to Kathmandu for repairing.
Sickle cell was first observed in Nepal some 15 years ago. Experts say people of indigenous tribe are prone to this disease. This disease is common among the people living in Banke, Bardiya, Kailali among other tarai districts.