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Act Now: Manage Health Workers to Combat COVID-19

8 MIN READ

Act Now: Manage Health Workers to Combat COVID-19
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The unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths has Nepal’s healthcare system teetering, meaning it is almost collapsed.

Doctors are working in stretched shifts in a depressing atmosphere round-the-clock where they face wailing patients.

COVID-19 patients are dying due to lack of oxygen and hospital beds as the pandemic has been indiscriminate in the country.

The country’s Covid-19 infection rate has risen dramatically of late. In the month of Baishakh, the country saw almost 150,000 new cases of coronavirus.

With over 4,500 deaths and more than 330,000 recoveries, the cumulative number of cases has now surpassed 440,000. As many as 1,700 people are currently receiving treatment under ventilator and ICU support.

Doctors in the country have said that the country’s health system has collapsed and that it is too late to intervene. Medical experts, as well as the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), foresaw the current situation a month ago and had even urged the government to act promptly.

There are no figures on the number of nurses working in the private sector, but it is estimated that there are between 13 and 15 thousand nurses.

However, as usual, since the government was preoccupied with its political wrangling, it did very little to focus on the pandemic because of which the environment has been terrifying at the moment.

While the country’s busiest roads are still deserted, odd locations, such as graveyards, are occupied and lined up with the victims.

People are dying from the lack of oxygen, which is the most essential requirement for survival. Hospitals are running out of beds, ICU beds, oxygen, ventilators, and other life-saving medications have left the citizens in a vulnerable condition.

On a more positive note, the international community has expressed its deep concern by beginning to supply oxygen cylinders and other critical medical supplies.

Nepal has received as many as 17 oxygen concentrators from Thailand to combat the second wave of Covid-19.

The US government announced an additional $8.5 million in emergency response funding through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to tackle the rising cases of COVID-19 disease in Nepal and to help the Nepali people get through the second phase of the pandemic.

From China, 18,400 oxygen cylinders were flown to Nepal. The remaining 1,600 cylinders from China’s grant assistance program, out of a total of 20,000, have also arrived.

Dreadfully, the country is likely to face an acute medical staff shortage given the current level of infection.

The country may be able to meet the demand for beds, oxygen, ventilators, and ICU, among other requirements, but the question of how would the government meet the requirement of additional medical personnel remains a daunting and challenging task for both the government and the hospitals.

Several hospitals have already announced several openings for healthcare professionals that have clearly reflected the increasing demand for healthcare professionals.

Since the situation is predictable, it is high time that the government prepared to manage and allocate additional medical staff, which can be addressed in the following ways:

Looking at the data, according to the Nepal Medical Council (NMC), there are a total of 25,814 registered MBBS doctors and 7,691 registered specialists i.e. MD/MS.

The government, Nepal Medical Council (NMC), and Nepal Nursing Council (NNC) must agree to grant them 20-25 percent of the total marks in the license or related examination in exchange for their contributions.

Likewise, according to the Nepal Nursing Council (NNC), till 28th Baisakh, 2077 there were approximately 12,000 nurses employed in approximately 120 government hospitals throughout the country.

There are no figures on the number of nurses working in the private sector, but it is estimated that there are between 13 and 15 thousand nurses.

According to the Council, about 20,000 nurses are working in Nepal, while the remaining 40,000 registered nurses are unemployed.

Similarly, a large number of MBBS students in their final year, as well as those pursuing postgraduate studies, are also available.

Internships are required for MBBS students in their last year. During this period, the government, in collaboration with medical institutions, can make the best use of these resources to combat the Covid-19.

Likewise, those pursuing a postgraduate degree are already capable of executing basic medical treatments, which is a positive aspect.

On the other hand, even MBBS graduates and nursing graduates from Bangladesh, China, Russia, the Philippines, and other countries are waiting to acquire their medical licenses in Nepal.

The government must make use of this manpower in order to meet future medical personnel requirements by providing sufficient on-time training focusing on the treatment of Covid-19.

ICUs and ventilators can be operated by the youth manpower. Senior doctors would benefit from the assistance of these doctors and nurses, who could operate under their direction and supervision.

Nurses, in particular, can help doctors and contribute on the front lines. This personnel will indeed serve as a backup for senior medical professionals.

Similarly, there is a substantial percentage of retired doctors and nurses from various fields, such as the army and government, who can help save lives.

Even at this point in time, we can see the government engaged in political maneuvering. While people die as a result of a lack of care, the government is busy jockeying for positions.

The government must be foresighted and prepared for any eventuality, and preparation for future battles must begin now.

In return for this contribution, the government should award some special grades and higher evaluations to medical students completing their MBBS, Post Graduate, and Nursing degrees for their future evaluation/examination.

The government, Nepal Medical Council (NMC), and Nepal Nursing Council (NNC) must agree to grant them 20-25 percent of the total marks in the license or related examination in exchange for their contributions.

This will serve as a motivator for them, and they will be encouraged to do better as a result. Alongside, the government must provide a strong salary, ensure life insurance and special allowances to all health professionals. This is a possibility that the government must address immediately.

Even at this point in time, we can see the government engaged in political maneuvering. While people die as a result of a lack of care, the government is busy jockeying for positions.

Controlling Covid-19 and saving lives should be the only priorities right now. The urgent need is to manage and strengthen Nepal’s health system, and relevant authorities must recognize this before it is too late.

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