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With corona-designated hospitals getting filled with Covid-19 patients, the government is struggling to provide treatment facilities for the virus-infected. In an effort to arrange the requisite health facilities, it has instructed both community and private hospitals to allocate at least 20 percent of their beds to Covid-19 patients. The government needs the help of all hospitals: owing to the lack of adequate isolation centres, some Covid-19 patients have had to make do with isolating themselves at home.

But private hospitals are reluctant to abide by the government directive, saying they don’t want to bear the risk of treating corona patients together with general patients. “We cannot treat corona patients by putting the life of general patients at risk,” said Kumar Thapa, senior vice-president of the Association of Private Health Institution Nepal (APHIN), the umbrella organization of private hospitals. The government had earlier said they would refund private hospitals for the expenses they incurred in treating Covid-19 patients. 

Thapa did not elaborate on the reason, but he said that his hospital would follow the decision taken by  APHIN. “Our organization has already refused the government’s directive. So we won’t be able to treat Covid-19 patients at this point,” said Thapa, who is also the proprietor of Alka Hospital. 

Infectious disease specialist Dr Anup Subedee said that the government order to set aside 20 beds in all hospitals is impractical–because not all hospitals can make such arrangements. “That would require separate wards and separate groups of health professionals to treat Covid patients. It is risky and could help spread the virus, instead,” said Dr Subedee. 

The government took the decision without consulting private hospitals–and without assessing the hospitals’ capacity and human resources. But hospitals cannot treat Covid-19 patients alongside other patients. 

On Saturday, 468 new Covid-19 cases were detected across the country, bringing the overall number of cases to 26,019. Among the new cases, 98 were detected in Kathmandu Valley. With pockets in the Valley seeing community-spread of the virus, certain areas of Kalanki, Koteshwor, Asan, and Kapan have been sealed off.

The government has come up with far more stringent rules for some other parts of the country. It has clapped curfews in Butwal and Mirchaiya, for example. In Kathmandu Valley, the chief district officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur have banned gatherings, religious programmes, and other group activities. Any type of meeting, seminar, training, and indoor sports activity is also strictly prohibited. And roadside vendors, cycle hawkers, and others involved in the industry have been instructed to follow the mandated health protocols if they are to remain open. 

Health officials are worried about bed availability because cases have started spiking rapidly in densely populated cities, including Kathmandu. Forty-two people have died of Covid-19 in the last nine days, according to the health ministry. 

And with its directives to private hospitals remaining unimplemented, the health ministry, on Saturday, issued another set of instructions–this time to medical colleges. It has asked the colleges to establish a separate isolation ward or set up an isolated desk comprising one-third of their beds, and to immediately treat Covid-19 patients.