KATHMANDU, June 13 : Dozens of passengers were hurt when a Turkish Airline jet skidded off the runway as it crash landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) last year.
The injured passengers, many of whom were bleeding from nose and ears, were rushed to the health desk at the TIA for primary medical attention. But the TIA health desk did not have sufficient trained manpower even to stop their bleeding.
"We did not even have beds to lay passengers down to provide first aid service," an employee at the TIA health desk said, adding that passengers felt aghast by the poor response of the health desk.
The TIA health desk operates from the exit corridor of the TIA. But the facility neither has a medical doctor nor beds, laboratory or an ambulance.
"Our weakness was exposed during the Turkish jet crash landing incident and Ebola epidemic," said the employee, asking not to be named as he was not authorized to talk with media.
During the Ebola epidemic, instead of examining the passengers, health workers deployed at the TIA asked the passengers to fill out forms to ensure that no one infected from deadly diseases entered the country.
However, as even filling forms is not mandatory, only those who are interested fill it.
"We tell the passengers to fill the forms voluntarily," Hari Upadhyay, in-charge of the health desk at TIA, said, adding that only a few passengers fill the forms.
He informed that the health workers at the desk provide hot-line phone number of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) to the incoming visitors to contact the office if they have any health complications.
But the hot-line service of the EDCD is answered only during office hour and no passenger has ever called the hot-line service till the date.
"If anyone had called to EDCD, they would have informed us," he said.
Upadhyay complained that the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) under the Department of Health (DoHS) has deployed some paramedics to fulfill the obligations of the International Health Regulation (IHR) but has not provided the necessary infrastructures and trained manpower. As per the IHR, the government has to adopt sufficient measures to ensure maximum security against the spread of diseases. Alarmed by the Ebola scare, the EDCD had decided to deploy a medical doctor at the health desk and had published a vacancy for the same. But no one has been selected till date.
Doctors have criticized the negligence on the part of concerned agencies under the MoH, saying that the risks of epidemics still persist.
"People from countries endemic to Zika virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), swine flu virus have been entering the country," Dr Sher Bahadur Pun of the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital said, adding, "But our mitigation measures are insufficient."
Officials at the EDCD concede that the TIA health desk is not prepared to handle emergency situations.
"We have to do a lot. Our health desk is not prepared to handle any unpleasant situations," Dr Baburam Marasini, director at the EDCD, said. He said that the EDCD has demanded four medical doctors for the TIA health desk but that no decision has been taken yet.