Youths are working to connect Covid patients with resources. Lack of cooperation from the government stands in the way.

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NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: As heartbreaking pictures and news were emerging from India, a team of eight Nepali youths, in the initial phase, started researching about the state of Covid-19 hospitals and oxygen supplies in Nepal. What they found out was awful. They found that information regarding availability of ICU beds was not reaching out to patients. People were hoarding life-saving oxygen cylinders at the time of pandemic.

Then, they [youths] thought of developing an online platform named Covid Connect Nepal to connect hospitals and seekers. As of Monday, the Covid Connect Nepal has already helped more than 100 Covid-19 patients find ICU beds, ventilators, plasma and Remdesivir drugs. Now, the team has 80 plus members to run the platform.

As the government has already announced that Nepal’s health system is unable to handle the pandemic, the platform developed by the group of eight youths has become a boon for Covid-19 patients.  

Connecting challenges

Although the platform has become a boon for Covid-19 patients at the time when there is a massive crisis of hospital beds and oxygen supplies, these youths are facing several challenges to connect the patients with resources.

“We have been finding ICU beds, oxygen supplies, life-saving medicines on our own. Even in this difficult time, there has not been any support from the government,” said Eeda Rijal, co-founder of Covid Connect Nepal.

Covid-19 patients being treated outside a Covid Special Hospital in Dang due to lack of beds. (Photo courtesy: Drona Oli)

The team has tried to reach the Ministry of Health and Population for the last four days, but there has not been any response from the government officials. “Even the Health Ministry’s data such as telephone numbers of medicine suppliers are not updated,” said Rijal, due to which they faced difficulties finding a medicine supplier.

“Yesterday, we tried to contact a Remdesivir supplier through contacts posted by the Health Ministry. As we couldn’t reach them through phone calls, we went to meet the supplier, but their store was closed,” said Rijal, expressing dissatisfaction over the incompetence of the government at the time of pandemic.

Covid Connect Nepal says that the contact details posted by the Health Ministry are outdated and suppliers don’t respond

“Likewise, some medicine suppliers ask about our legal status. This has created a lot of hassles to connect Covid-19 patients with resources,” she said, adding that the least government can do is provide proper details of suppliers and hospitals and disseminate proper information.

Even on the day the government issued a statement saying the health system is not able to handle the pandemic, the platform searched 56 ICU beds in the Kathmandu Valley for patients. “It is all about working together for the people,” said Rijal, adding that they have not been able to find Remdesivir drugs.

How Covid Connect works

The youths have created a website where seekers post their requirements such as ICU beds, oxygen supplies, plasma, ambulance, and Remdesivir. The team is also active on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp to receive requests.

“We contact focal persons of hospitals handling Covid-19 cases. After they provide details of ICU beds, ventilators and oxygen supplies, we post about the availability on our website and social media platforms. That is how Covid-19 patients in dire need of beds and oxygen are connected with hospitals,” said Rijal.

“There has been a lot of support from hospitals and medical staff. We also have a medical team of 18 doctors who provide assistance to those staying in home isolation,” she said.

The team has been updating the website every two hours, and those in need of bed, oxygen or any support can seek help anytime. The team has been working 100 percent virtually.  

The website started from April 30. Since then the platform has already connected more than 100 Covid-19 patients with hospitals. “Even some hospitals running out of oxygen supplies have contacted us.”

“We do not only provide information about bed availability, if the health condition of patients is in critical condition, we try to manage beds ourselves at the earliest,” said Rijal.

And if patients need plasma therapy, the platform requests to to connect possible donors and patients.

Connecting all

“As all the people are not in social media to know about this platform, we have a hotline number where those in dire need of support can contact us. We have circulated our hotline number through social media platforms. We are already getting responses through our hotline number too,” said Rijal, adding the team is available round the clock to receive calls and connect needy patients with hospitals.

The hotline numbers of Covid Connect are: 9813288998, 9843389412, 9842863093,  9823011623