Dr Prakash in Kathmandu
Our founder and chair, Dr Kate Yarrow, returned from Nepal a few days before the lockdown took place in the UK and Nepal. Kate writes:
"I returned from a trustee visit to Nepal less than a week before the UK went into full lock-down measures to try and restrict the spread of COVID-19. Within a matter of days, all of our lives have undergone unimaginable changes; geographical isolation, food shortages, the risk of life-threatening infection, and worryingly - restricted access to the healthcare that we usually so take for granted. In a moment of quiet reflection, I noticed that the self-isolation we are experiencing here in the UK is bringing us a little closer to the “normality” of life in Nepal. Perhaps a lesson to us all - of the hardship that millions have to endure on a daily basis, even before the additional threat of this invisible viral enemy.
As of today, there have only been 16 confirmed COVID cases in Nepal and no deaths; whether or not this is an accurate representation of the actual number is a different matter. But what we do know, is that if COVID takes it's hold on Nepal, and spreads to the western regions, it could be absolutely disastrous for the remote communities. Our doctors are having to work without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and in poor hospital infrastructures with limited facilities to cope with critically unwell patients.
As a charity, we will do whatever we can to help support our team in Nepal through these challenging times."
Dr Nahakul and Dr Meena are both in remote regions of Nepal and have yet to register any cases of COVID-19 in their small hospitals. Nahakul has sent 9 samples from his small hospital in Kalikot with none coming back positive, and Meena has sent 3 samples off from her small hospital in Jumla and is still waiting for the results.
Nahakul says “We are trying to reduce elective work, with many of our pregnant patients being able to follow up by mobile from home. They are asked to self quarantine. We have established a health desk at district entry point and all the people have to fill in their personal details and go through initial health check ups. And we also established an isolation ward in the hospital. We are running regular drills and trainings in case we have a positive cases. We do have some sanitiser but are relying more on hand washing for now with everybody including all patients have to wash their hands at the hospital entrance even before they register their names for hospital services.."
Since sending us his report above, Nahakul now says that “everybody is asked not to come to the hospital. It will be completely locked.”
Dr Prakash has just finished his internship at Patan Hospital in Kathmandu and we asked him how viral testing is being undertaken in Nepal and in particular in remote regions like Kalikot?
He says ” There are currently only two RRT PCR centres in the whole of Nepal, so they collect samples in suspected individuals in the remote regions and then send to Kathmandu. The Government has made some rules regarding isolation and quarantine but it’s very hard to implement especially for those who come from abroad and who need to earn daily living. Currently in Nepal there are only 16 positive cases among less than 1000 tested; testing is very slow… but the government plan to test from all 7 provinces by this week and hope testing will speed up.”
We are thinking of all our doctors and students at this very weird and frightening time. We hope they and you keep safe and well.
Dr Nahakul in his remote hospital in home-made PPE
COVID-19 - Dr Meena takes a patient's temperature