The situation at Seti Provincial Hospital in Dhangadi is much like the rest of the country. It is at breaking point with the lack of beds and oxygen.
Although the number of infections has gone down now, and the hospital waiting list is shorter, the crisis is far from over. Families of patients still have to bring beds from home, and sleep in the corridor or verandah.
There were 57 critically ill patients at the Seti Hospital despite having only having 55 beds. Some beds have up to three patients from the same family, and as their symptoms got worse they would be shifted to the emergency ward where all 16 beds were already occupied.
The hospital has to treat patients not only from Kailali district, but from a catchment area that stretches up to Baitadi, Humla and Bajura in Far-western Province. As a journalist, I was reporting on this grim situation when I started having symptoms myself on 12 May.
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I live alone in my rented room, and at night I started having a fever and body aches. I had received both doses of Covshield, so the symptoms subsided and I decided to visit my family since my mother was worried sick about me.
But even before leaving, I got a frantic call from my cousin at 10PM on 18 May. He was in Dhangadi with his 24-year-old sister who was sick with Covid-19 because by the time they got her PCR result, her condition had deteriorated, with the blood oxygen level at 34.
“We are at Sarathi hospital, we have to find oxygen as soon as possible,” he said.
I immediately called an acquaintance for help, who told me he had a small cylinder at home. I returned to my room, where I spent the night trying to arrange unsuccessfully for additional oxygen.
In the morning, I got a call from my cousin. “Our oxygen cylinder is almost empty.”
I tried to reassure him that I was looking, but I was having doubts. I called a police officer whose relative had succumbed to Covid-19 only a day ago. He had half a cylinder left, but his place was too far away. He asked me to find an empty cylinder which could be filled up by his friends at an oxygen plant.
That would take time, so I was on my phone calling everyone I knew. I called a senior journalist in Kailali. He was unreachable. I called his wife who couldn’t arrange for oxygen, but directed me to Dev Chaudhary, in charge of oxygen management at Seti Hospital.
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