Early afternoon I received a request from Balaram Napit for an ICU bed as his father was asphyxiating because of Covid-19 at Green City Hospital in Tokha, Kathmandu. The hospital could not provide the ICU bed; therefore, they told him to find an ICU elsewhere. As an emergency responder, I started calling hospitals all around Kathmandu as I was sitting with the list of Covid hospitals providing service to Covid-19 patients.
It seemed impossible to find ICU for the patient as I rang entire hospitals in the list, including my personal contacts. Even by late afternoon, I couldn’t find a single ICU anywhere around Kathmandu. It’s unfortunate communicating back with the patient’s relatives and telling them there was no ICU around. Another patient, Bina Maharjan, aged 54, needed an ICU as her health was deteriorating. I communicated with her daughter to rush her to Nidaan Hospital in Lalitpur as we were informed that there was an ICU bed available. By the time the patient reached the hospital’s emergency ward, the admission was denied as the hospital ran out of oxygen. Later, we suggested she go to Patan Hospital’s Covid emergency.
The first patient (Balram’s father) was still a priority. But I was heartbroken to know that the patient had died without timely ICU support. As a first emergency responder, I felt starkly hopeless, not able to provide the needed support although I tried. It was a terrible experience of being helpless.
With a group of co-workers, we started a WhatsApp group to facilitate patients to find hospitals, hospital beds, ICU, medicines, and even an ambulance. These were critical support for anybody going through the chaos of the health management system in the country. We rolled this on behalf of the Chaudhary Foundation as its Disaster Response Program intending to provide humanitarian support to anybody who needed such help.
As I was sitting with a heavy heart, I received a call from a friend Narayan KC whose mother was in a hospital with an infection. Additionally, she also needed dialysis as she was a kidney patient. She was admitted to Alka Hospital in Lalitpur, and this was her regular hospital providing her a dialysis service. Unfortunately, Alka hospital told my friend to find an ICU somewhere else as his mother’s oxygen level was going down. Upon consultation with a doctor at Patan Hospital, one of the biggest Covid-19 hospitals, it was suggested to keep her at Alka itself as Patan Hospital was overwhelmed with Covid -19 patients and all their ICUs were full as well. Narayan decided to wait at Alka for ICU and requested the hospital to help him find an ICU bed. However, he had no choice but to sign a consent letter from the hospital explaining hospital should not be held accountable if anything happens while patients wait for the ICU bed.
The entire situation was deemed ‘under control’ by the country’s prime minister KP Oli who is still in denial to accept the fact that he did very little to save his countrymen.
Looking at his mother’s situation and taking some medical consultation from doctors personally, Narayan rushed his ailing mother to Patan Hospital’s Covid emergency unit. The hospital admitted the patient and provided the ICU bed hours later. Unfortunately, Narayan was also tested positive, and it just added another mental torture on the ravaged family.
A friend living in California sent me a message on Facebook messenger asking if I knew anybody who could provide oxygen. His mother living in Nepal was in serious condition as he knocked on my door for help. After a quick conversation, I was able to put his family in a teleconsultation with a doctor at NorvicHospital. After an hour, I received a message of relief, saying the conversation had provided significant relief to his mother and his family.
The same night we received multiple calls from colleagues in despair and sorrowful messages with requests to find hospitals, ICU beds, medicine such as Remidisivir, and even ambulances. In some cases, we were able to manage the requirements after continuous effort. Everyone seemed determined to provide relief, including senior management of the group. Such engagement from seniors always inspires volunteers to believe that volunteerism works. The sigh of relief once you manage any of these services was priceless. The humanitarian spirit would hover around to energize you for the next call with the subsequent request.
I am really thankful for the excellent team effort from all my colleagues at Chaudhary Group.
The following day, the first message I received was to find Remdesivir for a friend’s mother and a father in their 70’s. I called around 30 people in my network, and I was still unable to manage a single.
Meanwhile, Narayan’s mother’s face crossed my mind for a second; therefore, I decided to call my friend to make sure he and his mother are doing fine. Narayan started crying only to let me know that his mother passed away the same morning as she could not battle Covid. I had no words to console my friend. I told him to take care and hung up.
Such has been the situation of Nepal since the second wave of Covid hit. There is a severe scarcity of hospital beds, ventilators, ICU beds, and oxygen, including medical supplies. Even when you require an ambulance, it is almost impossible to find them timely.
The entire situation was deemed ‘under control’ by the country’s prime minister KP Oli who is still in denial to accept the fact that he did very little to save his countrymen. The above scenarios and incidents explain well how the country is not ‘under control’, and the Government is doing very little to serve its people other than imposing the lockdown.
I feel enormous regret that such shameless leaders govern us. Nobody is serious about controlling the pandemic,
The PM faced massive criticism from his cabinet members last year while procuring health equipment from China. He has been again criticized this year for taking sides of meddler (Hukkam Distribution and logistics Enterprises as stated by the Health Minister of the country) for the procurement of vaccines from Serum Institute in India for the sake of fat commission.
KP Oli is a hopeless leader for youngsters like myself, and Health Minister Tripathi, who has no plan laid out to support the health system, should resign immediately. I know that Access to Health is a fundamental right of every citizen; however, when the government, leaders of opposition parties, and civic leaders cannot provide that access, no one would believe in the system.
While the pandemic was unfolding, The country’s home minister was seen flying in a helicopter to file the nomination for an election to a provincial headquarter. And major political leaders of the country were busy toppling the government and create an opportunity for themselves. Rajendra Mahato appeared without a mask on TV, and he was smiling as he described the country’s political situation without even a pang of guilt as he was posing for the camera.
I feel enormous regret that such shameless leaders govern us. Nobody is serious about controlling the pandemic, and nobody has any mercy for people like Balram, who lost his father without an ICU bed.
We, the people, are also accountable for the current grim situation. We were too relaxed and took the virus lightly. Many of us still today wear masks around the ear, covering the chin but not covering the mouth and nose. Even after realizing more than 9,000 infections and 200 deaths per day, social media keeps popping a wedding picture or a Mother’s Day gathering without social distancing and mask.
For the first time, I am realizing the pain of living in a third-world country, although I never believed that there was a third-world. However, lack of information, education, and discipline among fellow citizens has perpetuated the transmission. And I blame nobody but ourselves that we as citizens lack basic ethics and accountability as we tirelessly blame the government.
Amir R Thapa works as a Senior Manager at Chaudhary Foundation, the social wing of the Chaudhary Group.