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The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal is now more than 5,000. Today that country's prime minister said it could more than double. As rescue crews try to reach Nepali villages still cut off by the damage, medical teams in Kathmandu are struggling to deal with the wounded. NPR's Kirk Siegler sent this report from one of the capital city's hospitals.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: In Kathmandu's Model Hospital, two dozen patients are crowded into what would normally be the first floor reception area.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).
SIEGLER: Nurses are racing about. Patients are lying on worn, dirty mats on the floor hooked up to IVs. One man, Loknatch Subedi, is sprawled out on a stretcher, his feet bandaged, one leg propped-up on an old pillow.
LOKNATCH SUBEDI: (Foreign language spoken).
SIEGLER: "I'm getting better," he says. On Saturday, he and his wife were riding on a scooter when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. He was hit by a flying brick from the wall they were passing. The scooter crashed.
SUBEDI: (Foreign language spoken).
SIEGLER: "My wife was able to drag me away," he says, "just before the wall collapsed. It would've killed us." Subedi needs surgery. The hospital has him waiting parked in this tight hallway. Doctors are hoping to open a temporary operating room here tomorrow.
KOVID NEPAL: I'm Dr. Kovid Nepal. I'm the surgical resident here. Nepal - my surname is Nepal, yes.
SIEGLER: Doctor Nepal says the third and fourth floors of the hospital that house the OR and the intensive care unit were damaged. Engineers have inspected them and he says there's no danger of the building collapsing. But most patients are afraid of going upstairs, especially with all the aftershocks.
NEPAL: So most of the work has been going on on the ground floor. And the patients, as you can see, are basically living on the floors. We're admitting them on the floors.
SIEGLER: This is one of at least a half-dozen hospitals in Kathmandu that are completely overwhelmed right now. You see the wounded lying out in the open or under tents outside, waiting for care. Even before the quake, Nepal's infrastructure was strained. Here at Model, three days after the quake, there are more than 150 patients being treated in a hospital that can only handle 125. A woman is rushed by on a stretcher bound for the improvised ER. The suffering is all around.
NEPAL: She's a 52 years' lady. She had actually - the wall had collapsed over her, so she has injuries over her back and she also had abdominal pain. We just resuscitated her.
SIEGLER: The staff here is exhausted. Dr. Nepal says they've worked mostly nonstop since Saturday, stealing away for rests here or there. Home for him right now is under a tarp one of the many tent cities that have popped-up around Kathmandu. He says the doctors here are doing the best they can to cope.
NEPAL: We are trying to rotate because the first day was much more hectic, but since then we are trying to rotate the doctors so that they can be more effective.
SIEGLER: But all of these strategies are overshadowed by bigger problems. This hospital is running out of food and is in desperate need of medical supplies like sutures and orthopedic implants. Hospitals in Kathmandu are also expecting to see even more patients. Aid has been slow to get to some of the hardest-hit areas and remote villages close to the quake's epicenter. Aid workers say this is becoming a public health crisis of massive proportion. A short walk from the Model Hospital, Ranjit Acharya stands under a shelter helping Nepalese volunteers coordinate and distribute supplies to areas he says the government hasn't yet reached.
RANJIT ACHARYA: We're talking about more than a million people who are out of homes and nothing is there with them. They are just outside under the sun, under the rain.
SIEGLER: Acharya says rebuilding is a long way out. He says what this country needs most right now is money because they're just trying to survive these next few weeks. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Kathmandu.
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