Kathmandu: Dr Pragya Singh Basnet was appointed as Director of the Rapti Academy of Health Sciences (RAHS) in February, when the graph of coronavirus infections in the country had plateaued. But the trend didn’t last long; by May, the infections spiked, with the country grappling with a deadlier second wave and its health system all but collapsed.
This has been a challenging time for Dr Basnet, who was previously an ophthalmologist at the Kist Medical College in Lalitpur.
“As Dang [where the RAHS is based] lies close to the Indian border, Covid-19 spread really fast in Dang,” she says. “It was a challenge for all of us as we saw a massive crunch of health resources with increasing cases.”
Even in the midst of the pandemic, the hospital managed to add 25 beds for Covid-19 patients. “But adding beds was not enough as the hospital was overwhelmed with patients,” Dr Basnet added. “People were dying.”
Seeing bodies wrapped in plastic bags every day was painful and heartbreaking, she says. “I am an emotional person, and it was a horrible experience to see young people succumbing to Covid-19,” she said.
“I am an emotional person, and it was a horrible experience to see young people succumbing to Covid-19.”
Almost 40 people died of Covid-19 in RAHS in the second wave of the pandemic.
Currently, the RAHS has only seven patients in the ICU ward. This comes as a relief to Dr Basnet. “The number of Covid-19 patients is decreasing. We have successfully battled the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Apart from battling the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Basnet has also set up a separate ophthalmology department in the hospital. “Patients in the nearby area were not getting eye treatment at the hospital. We will further develop the department and provide quality service to patients,” said Dr Basnet, adding that the hospital has also prepared itself to battle the possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As there has been a prediction that children will be most affected by the third wave, the hospital has already set up a neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric intensive care unit,” she said. “We are fully prepared.”
Although working as a Covid-19 focal person gives Dr Basnet immense satisfaction, she has left her family in Kathmandu which saddens her. “I am in Dang without my family,” says Dr Basnet. “It’s hard sometimes, but it’s my duty and responsibility to serve the people.”