COVID-test requirement for hospital admissions and attendees evokes frustration

On December 31, 2020, a newly-born baby saddled in a thick blanket was brought into the JDWNRH hospital ward by a nurse but both the mother and the father of the baby was conspicuous by their absence. The mother was admitted to the ICU after giving birth while the father was held up at the hospital premises waiting for his COVID-19 test result. Luckily, a man who was waiting for his own wife to conveyance volunteered to take care of the infant until the parents could make it. The next day, the father was escorted to the ward where he took charge of the newborn.
The new rule that makes it mandatory for attendees of patients to undergo a COVID-19 test before accompanying their ward has evoked public frustration.
Medical Superintendent of JDWNRH, Dr Gosar Pemba said there is only one hospital in Thimphu and in case a positive case of COVID-19 is detected at the hospital, “where would the patients move?”
“Individuals don’t see this huge looming crisis and are looking for an easy way out.”
“It is a problem but not permanent. Patients, after examination and the test, enter the hospital while the attendee has to wait for the result and join the patient afterwards,” said Dr Gosar Pemba.
According to the Medical Superintendent, if Thimphu had four or five hospitals, like in metropolitan cities around the world, it would be easier to shift patients from one hospital to another but seeing that Thimphu has only one, it would be impossible to do that. “People need to take that point of view into account. The rules have not been put into place without reason.”
Further, he said it is not a hassle for the public alone. The hospital staff, security and Desuups have to go through the grind equally. “The test results take longer because Thimphu is ravaged with cases.”
For patients in critical condition such as pregnant women due for conveyance, the GeneXpert test which delivers results within an hour is used. However, the attendee has to undergo the RT-PCR test which takes more than 24-hours. “This could be the reason why the attendees are complaining,” he said, “But we don’t have sufficient GeneXpert tests so we have to use them sparingly and only on genuinely critical cases.”
Procedure for attendee COVID-19 test
There are about four to five tents pitched outside the hospital which serves as triage, examination room (ER), and flu clinic for COVID-19 testing.
The patient has to register or scan through a Druk Trace App for which a Desuup is deployed then he/she is directed to the triage, where a doctor is assigned take note of the medical condition and if further medical intervention is needed he/she is taken to the ER.
If the patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, he/she has to undergo the COVID-19 test along with his/her attendee. They have to undergo an RT-PCR test if the patient is not in a critical condition but if the patient is critical and needs immediate admission, he/she has to undergo the GeneXpert test.
Talking to Business Bhutan, an attendee said that the move was inspired by motive for collective good but it did not help the individual. “I had to wait all night outside the hospital while my wife was taken inside with labor pain. I was wracked with stress thinking about my wife who was all alone and in great pain.”
A female attendee said she had to return home as her COVID-19 test report was due only the next day while her patient was taken inside the hospital and had to undergo surgery the next morning.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu