29.04.2020

More data, better hygiene: Nepal’s hospitals are gearing up to face the pandemic

Hospitals worldwide are straining to cope with COVID-19. Nepal’s hospitals have taken steps that will improve care in the short and in the long term.

Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia, is particularly at risk from the spread of COVID-19. To date, its hospitals have not been equipped to deal with a pandemic. They lack the technology, materials and systems to collect relevant data. Paul Rückert, GIZ team leader in Nepal, is working with his team and the partners to enhance the preparedness of the health system. ‘Our goal is for the measures taken now to not only help stem the spread of the pandemic, but to strengthen the health system in the long term too.’

On behalf of Germany’s Federal Development Ministry (BMZ), GIZ is working to improve Nepal’s health system. Approaches developed in the project, including the disposal of infectious waste, play a key role in coping with the pandemic. At the start of the year, guidelines were brought into line to address the new challenges. They lay down standards for the correct and safe handling of potentially infected waste and materials.

Materials such as plastic are not incinerated, but disinfected, and then disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. The project is supporting the government in its moves to implement the new guidelines in the 13 hospitals across the country that are specialised in treating COVID-19 patients. It provides the necessary appliances and trains staff. 

In Nepal too, the number of possible tests is limited, so the best possible use must be made of the available capacities. To this end an existing early warning and reporting system for communicable disease has been extended and enhanced. Data on suspected cases are updated daily, and the subsequent contact tracing helps improve crisis monitoring. Hospitals record and submit data relating to patients demonstrating the symptoms of a coronavirus infection. If a hospital records a rise in the incidence of symptoms, the suspected cases will be tested so as to identify and stem outbreaks at an early stage. 

The monitoring system, which has been modified specially for the coronavirus pandemic, can in future deliver important information on the outbreak of many other diseases, such as dengue and cholera. An epidemiological early warning system of this sort can thus help improve Nepal’s health system in the long term.

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