The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) is working to increase the number of hospital beds to be made available to COVID-19 patients as daily caseload has risen sharply in the past week.

MoHP has started signing agreements with private hospitals and medical colleges with more than 200 beds to free-up beds after the number of COVID infections doubled in four days.

The Ministry is signing agreements with hospitals and medical colleges with the provision that the government will compensate health institutions for the available beds and treatment of COVID patients, informed Dr Sameer Kumar Adhikari.

Infected patients will be provided the beds and treatment for free, he added. “We have signed agreements with 15 medical colleges as of yet,” he said. All medical colleges have at least 300 beds.

The agreement signed between MoHP and healthcare institutions states that the latter should operate a separate COVID care unit.

MoHP is said to have agreed to pay Rs 3,500 daily for general treatment, Rs 7,000 for moderate treatment and Rs 15,000 for serious treatment of COVID infected patients.

“If a patient wants to undergo treatment with cabin facilities at their own expense, healthcare institutions will be allowed to charge an additional 50 per cent on the price fixed by the government,” the agreement states.

Dr Adhikari said that local levels will sign similar agreement with hospitals having up to 15 beds and provincial governments will sign it with hospitals having at least 200 beds.

Meanwhile, the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku is planning to connect an oxygen pipeline outside the emergency room as the hospital’s beds are all full.

“Currently, the chances of getting a bed with oxygen supply are slim even for critically ill patients,” said the hospital’s director, Sagar Raj Bhandari adding, “We are trying to enable the patients to breathe by attaching oxygen themselves outside the emergency room.”

He said that six oxygen lines would be connected outside the emergency room within a week.

Dr Adhikari said that the new buildings of Manmohan Memorial Hospital and Bir Hospital were being isolated to make space for COVID patients.

“At least 200 beds are being freed-up in one of the floors of Bir Hospital. We also need to add manpower along with the new infrastructures,” said Dr Achyut Karki, who is leading the hospital’s management of COVID patients.

MoHP said that infrastructures were being prepared to treat 150 COVID patients at the Ayurveda Training Center in Kirtipur.

Earlier, Nepal Army had designated the Kharipati-based Nepal Electricity Authority Office as an isolation center. According to MoHP, the infrastructures were removed from there after the number of infected people slumped.

Similarly, a building prepared for squatters in Nagarjuna Municipality was recently given to an NGO to use for three years at the decision of the Council of Ministers. The building had previously isolated up to 500 infected people.

Beds installed at the Ayurveda Hospital in Kirtipur have also been removed. MoHP has instructed the hospital to set aside at least 50 percent of the beds for COVID patients.