During the devastating second wave last year, hundreds of people were dying every day. Hospitals had run out of ICU beds and oxygen cylinders.
This time, hospitals are running out of medical staff.
As elsewhere, the third wave in Nepal is infecting healthcare workers, endangering not only patients with Covid pneumonia, but also those suffering from pre-existing conditions like kidney failure, diabetes, cancers or cardio-vascular diseases.
This acute shortage in medical staff across Nepal due to the rapid spread of Omicron has prompted the Ministry of Health to consider shortening the isolation period for doctors, nurses and paramedics to five days. The US and India have already done so.
Hundreds of health workers are testing positive daily in hospitals all over the country, turning health facilities themselves into a hotbed of the virus.
On Tuesday, there were 10,258 new cases out of 22,828 tested, bringing the positivity rate up to 45%. This is the highest ever daily new cases for Nepal and also the highest positivity rate.
International airlines flying out of Kathmandu are reporting a sharp increase in the number of passengers who cannot fly because of the PCR positive test results. So far passengers on domestic flights are not required PCR tests, only vaccine cards from next week.
“Omicron is spreading like wildfire through all hospitals, in ours alone we have 35 staff testing positive,” says Sanduk Ruit of Tilganga Eye Hospital in Kathmandu.
One of the bigger facilities in Kathmandu, HAMS Hospital, has 16 of its clinical staff in isolation after testing positive. On 17 January, 52 staff of the Trauma Centre Hospital tested positive in one day, affecting emergency care of accident victims.
Teaching Hospital and Bir Hospital in the Valley also have a similarly high number of doctors and nurses infected and isolating.
“Health workers in every ward are infected, Covid has now spread from the emergency to the general ward, the blood bank, physiotherapy, ICU and even the administration,” director of the Trauma Centre Pramod Joshi told Nepali Times.
The hospital is now primarily treating patients that need emergency care and surgery. “The hospital is full of patients and the ICU is packed as it always is,” he said.