COVID-19: Not only losses, lessons also learnt in health sector reform

Kathmandu, Nov 30 

The novel coronavirus pandemic has not only thrown up challenges before science and the global health system but has also prodded every nation in the world to invest in the development and infrastructure construction in the health sector.

Although it created a big challenge in the economic and social sectors, the pandemic has taught a big lesson in terms of construction of infrastructures in the health sector and the management of equipment, treatment and medical supplies in Nepal. Spokesman of the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Jageshwor Gautam said COVID-19 has created an environment for developing new vaccine, creating new institutions and called for a new management system in the health sector. Coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges but it has at the same time thrown up challenges for making our health system more prompt, accessible and responsive. The government has also realized that only private sector institutions are not enough but the government institutions too needed to be strengthened to handle such crises. According to Dr Gautam, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a change in the understanding of the policy-makers that the budget allocated to the health sector is not only an expenditure, rather we need appropriate facilities as well and not only money.

Despite the social and economic hardships it has brought and thrown life out of gear for many people, this pandemic has also taught people how to cope in difficult situations. The government is of the belief that the country did not have to face a formidable challenge handling the situation as the lockdown was timely enforced after the infection was seen in two people in the beginning and as it became effective. A lot of things have improved over the period since then. In the beginning, the doctors and nurses would shy away from even examining the patients let alone treating them. But this is not the case at present.

Even though the society discriminated, COVID-19 made people realize that both the rich and poor are equal, and that more investments are needed in the health sector. “The pandemic of novel coronavirus taught us that people can die if we cannot manage vaccines, ICU and ventilators as well as other facilities by ramping up investments,” Dr Gautam shared. Infrastructures constructed In the beginning when the coronavirus was first detected there was no laboratory facility for testing for coronavirus. Improving from that stage, the government has now made arrangements for RT-PCR testing at 76 places. The daily testing capacity is 20 thousand at present.

Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal sad that the government has brought the policy of operating a hospital with at least 15 beds in 649 local levels with the thinking that all the sick people should have access to hospital. “Arrangements have been made for providing budget for operating 390 hospitals at local levels. Works would start for setting up a 15-bed hospital each at all the local levels next year. The task of sending one MBBS doctor and two staff nurses is underway to start a temporary hospital of at least 15 beds capacity in 649 municipalities,” the Health Minister said. The number of ICU beds has been increased and 260 more ventilators have been set up throughout the country at present.

The government is at work at a war footing to manage about 250 more ventilators and 3,500 ICU level beds. The government had set up an epidemic control hospital of 300 beds capacity in Kathmandu immediately after coronavirus infection was first found in the country. Likewise, the government had adopted policy of setting up a 50-bed capacity hospital along with lab, upgrading the erstwhile Zonal Hospitals into 200-bed capacity hospitals, completing the hospital structures with 50 beds in all the 77 districts and upgrading the provincial hospitals into 500-bed capacity facilities. Minister Dhakal added that his ministry has released the resources for arranging for ICU facilities with 10 beds and ventilator facilities with four beds in two districts of each province. Combating COVID-19, learning from experience Minister Dhakal said the state was moving forward fighting against the pandemic, learning from the experiences, becoming enriched with knowledge and managing the works accordingly as this is a new disease for the whole world.

The government that had estimated in the beginning the pandemic could perhaps be contained if two per cent of the total population could be tested has now in a position to handle the situation even if two per cent of the population was infected. Minister for Health and Population Dhakal said the government is doing an excellent job in controlling the pandemic and ensuring public health safety based on the means and resources available at its disposal.

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