For the past eight months, I’ve been living in Karjanha, Siraha working as the Primary Health Administrator/Community Outreach Specialist at Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Hospital (PKMMH). This Hospital and what it stands for is a good example of how the Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Trust (PKMMT), the organisation which has paid for the infrastructure and supports the Hospital, in collaboration with the community and various government health entities are making a difference in the lives of rural populations. The PKMMH Vision is: “People living in the Hospital catchment area have the ability and understanding to access excellent health care leading to healthier lifestyles” with the Mission being to Create an environment such that people living within the Hospital catchment area use PKMMH as their first choice for health care and are treated with excellent customer care.
In a few months PKMMH will be celebrating three years of serving this area. The challenges have been great, i.e. working in an area with literacy less than 50% and where most households don’t have a toilet; computers and the internet are uncommon in schools; where people depend on their livelihoods through the agricultural sector or the many, traditional “mom and pop” shops; where women spend their days collecting firewood, etc.
Developing trusting relationships is what we’ve been working on since this community based Hospital began. The infrastructure is second to none but this truly is about continuing to build positive, community relationships and reputation. We have been trying to recruit specialists to work at PKMMH but have also had tremendous support from our sister organisation, Grande Hospital, in bringing their specialists to Karjanha for special clinics. This has included doctors from disciplines such as orthopedics, pediatrics, cardiology, psychiatry, ENT, as well as dermatologists from other institutions. Generally these are well received by the community, but they want specialists at PKMMH on a consistent basis.
We’ve been a presence in the community at Haat Bazaars, constantly informing people about our services and specialist visits; on occasion we have a Health Assistant/Nurse conducting free blood pressure screenings. We’ve also had our MGDP Michaiya Branch in-charge, attend the local Haat Bazaar. We are involved in free medical camps, we offer discounts to elders and we don’t turn people away from services due to poverty conditions. We work with and inform children through a library and school dental program. We’ve reached out to partners such as the Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital (SCEH) in Lahan and will soon be conducting some pilot health clinics in local schools.
Recently through a number of community health workers we’ve undertaken a community health survey in five VDCs to determine how PKMMH is impacting this area. We’ve asked questions about Hospital services, household information, health, livelihood and educational issues to determine the state of our community. This will help us to develop and align programs with community needs.
Having grown up and lived most of my life in the US, I experienced and understood preventative care, went to dentists and doctors regularly, and learned about a healthy diet. There was never a dearth of good medical care. However, people living in rural areas in Nepal, don’t have as many choices, transportation can be an issue, lack of funds with prevention not being very high on the priority list.
Even with great infrastructure and cleanliness that is clearly superior to other health institutions throughout Nepal, bringing health awareness, excellent medical care and customer service and a caring attitude is a challenge. A lot of this comes down to staff and community attitudes and perceptions. Much of this work seems to be around providing factual information and helping people to slowly but surely see other possibilities around leading healthier lifestyles.
PKMMT, along with its many partners, has brought great opportunities for improving lifestyles to a rural part of Nepal. There is always more work to be done but the fact remains that this type of venture can only improve service for the Country’s citizens.