Nepal: Families struggling to find money for healthcare

2015-05-04 14:13
Bipasha Shrestha sits in hospital. Her leg was broken when their home collapsed. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

Bipasha Shrestha sits in hospital. Her leg was broken when their home collapsed. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

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Kathmandu - Destitute Nepalis injured in the devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 7 000 people last week face a burgeoning crisis - that of finding money to pay for desperately needed healthcare.

Despite a government decree that all hospitals should treat injured disaster victims without charge - at least one private hospital in the country’s capital Kathmandu continues to demand payment.

It is understood that the state of Nepal provides a grant for patients treated in private hospitals, with the institutions insisting they need to charge for their consumables.

This as thousands of people injured in the quake steadily make their way towards medical centres.

The Janamaitri Hospital in central Kathmandu has been overwhelmed with those in need of medical care, so much so that a backlog of over 100 surgery patients have had to be sent home until the hospital can accommodate them.

The scuffed marble floors lead up to walls ridden with cracks from the earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Patients lie across hallways in the wards in between improvised drip stands and wheelchairs cobbled together from lawn furniture and bicycle wheels.

The footfalls of those pacing the halls while holding vigil spring to action when their loved ones need to be moved to another level in the hospital. They carry the wounded on their backs, because the elevators do not function.

Jamuna, 26, Bipasha, 9 and Samjhana Shrestha lie in the general woman's ward at the Janamaitri Hospital in Kathmandu. All three were badly injured in the quake and are now homeless. (Jeff Wicks, News24)

No money, no medicine

A six-bed ward within the hospital holds members of the Shrestha family, who were badly injured when their home in the village of Phutung was razed to the ground.

Laxman Shrestha, the only person to emerge unscathed, showed News24 two separate paid invoices from the hospital.

The invoices itemise medical care, a bed charge and additional charges for medication.

“If we want the medicine we must pay before. My wife was discharged and I had to pay and my sister has a broken back and before they would give her the medicine I had to pay,” he said.

“I am not working and now we have no home. My whole family is here and I have no money for everything,” Shrestha added.

His 9-year-old niece Bipasha is among those injured, a crudely set cast over her left leg evidence of the terror his family faced.

“We were all inside the house when the earthquake hit and the walls all fell down. There is only a mound left there now where my home used to be.” he said.

Free surgery

The Gift of the Givers humanitarian mission deployed a team of doctors to Nepal, and has partnered with several hospitals in the capital.

The operations, surgical implements and implants are not charged for, a strict condition set by Gift of the Givers head Imtiaz Sooliman.

The administrator of the hospital, known only as Krishna, could not be reached for comment.

The relief effort is expected to now focus on the provision of medical care, as the likelihood of finding survivors in the rubble at various collapse sites has almost completely diminished.

The inaccessibility of thousands of injured Nepalis stuck in remote mountain villages - vulnerable to sepsis and complications - could result in a massive rise in the death toll.

The danger of complications like sepsis or gangrene from untreated wounds is compounding the crisis left by the quake, with the country’s limping healthcare system struggling to cope.

- Jeff Wicks is in Kathmandu courtesy of Gift of the Givers.

To see a video of CNN doctor Dr Sanjay Gupta performing brain surgery on a young victim of the Nepal Quake, watch below:

Read more on:    gift of the givers  |  nepal  |  earthquakes  |  health  |  nepal earthquake  |  natural disasters

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