COVID in Nepal | The View from the Frontlines – Bindhaya’s Story
This is Part 3 of a three-part series on COVID-19 in Nepal. Click the links below to read more about how the people of Nepal, and especially the Little Sisters, are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
Bindhaya, the very first Little Sister, has been a nurse for 15 years. She is currently working as a staff nurse in the Pediatric department of Dhulikhel Hospital in Dhulikhel, Nepal. A few months ago, a new mother died of COVID-19 in the Emergency Room. After this death, the emergency ward was sealed, affected staff members were quarantined, and no emergency services were available for three days.
Bindhaya’s work was not interrupted during this time, as she works in the pediatric ward, but she worries about the enormous pressure COVID is placing on the Nepali healthcare system. Suicides and infant mortality rates are increasing and seasonal infectious diseases, such as flu, typhoid, and dengue, are prevalent. Yet, hospitals are required to reserve 20% of their capacity for potential COVID patients, making it difficult for non-COVID patients to get treated when they need it. “This is a very difficult time for the people of Nepal. Many are struggling financially, suicide cases are increasing, and thousands of children are at risk,” Bindhaya told us.
Daily COVID case numbers and deaths have continued to rise rapidly throughout August and into September. As cases rise among the general population, Nepal’s frontline healthcare workers have also seen a rise in positive cases among their colleagues. This has led some Nepalis to worry that medical personnel might bring the virus home from their jobs. “Some healthcare workers are being shunned or blamed for being careless if they receive a positive test result,” Bindhaya explained. “Landlords are even asking some healthcare workers to leave their apartments. It is a very difficult time for us.”
At Bindhaya’s hospital in Dhulikel, staff are self-isolating in hotels near the hospital while they work shifts on 10 consecutive days. They are then able to leave the hotel and hospital to go home for a 10-day break. Because Bindhaya has a child under the age of 2, she has not served on her hospital’s 55-bed COVID ward yet. However, a rotation schedule has been devised that means her turn to spend one week working the COVID ward will come up in October or November.
As of right now, Bindhaya’s hospital has sufficient availability of beds, ventilators, and workers. In order for the hospital staff and resources to avoid being overwhelmed, the number of cases will need to level off soon.