Patients too scared to stay inside hospital

Patients too scared to stay inside hospital
A tent city has sprung up at the old parade ground of Tundhikhel in Kathmandu. Tents and field toilets have been hastily erected for the 3,000 to 4,000 people there who are in need of food, water and sanitation.

KATHMANDU - At the 250-bed B&B Hospital in Kathmandu, patients can be found lying in the carpark or under the porch.

The reason is not overcrowding but panic, said Dr J. L. Baidya, managing director and chief surgeon at the private orthopaedic hospital.

A government official had gone to the hospital on Sunday and told its staff to take precautions because a magnitude-9 earthquake could strike, he explained.

Although it turned out to be a completely groundless rumour, the patients and their relatives were so spooked that they refused to stay indoors.

"We had to rig up a makeshift operating theatre in the carpark. To do basic life-saving operations, even amputations, we had to wheel all the machinery out there. Can you imagine?" Dr Baidya told The Straits Times in the forecourt of the hospital, surrounded by patients.

Ironically, he said, the entire intensive care unit on the third floor is now empty. Almost all the patients are on the ground floor, if not outside.

"This has created a problem not only for the patients but also for the doctors and nurses, because the patients are now scattered in different places around the hospital," he added.

Like others in the city, the hospital is operating at full capacity with its staff working 24-hour shifts.

About 128 earthquake victims were taken to the hospital after last Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake. Ten were already dead on arrival, said the hospital's registrar, Dr Philip Shyam Ranjit.

The hospital would soon run out of medicine, including antibiotics and painkillers, hospital officials said. There has been no help yet from the government, they added.

"But more than our needs, the problem is this panic," Dr Baidya said.

Dr Ranjit said the hospital has had to turn away quake victims, but would offer primary care where necessary. It was also giving out medicine free of charge.

"There are big problems," he said. "We don't have electricity; we are running on generators and, for that, we have to find and buy diesel.

"Till now, there has been no assistance from the government, though yesterday, officials came and took notes of what we need."

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