A free medical camp was recently held at a local school in Birendra Bazar, Dhanusa by Phul Kumari Mahato Memorial Hospital (PKMMH) in collaboration with Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital (SCEH), Lahan and Samyut Yuwa Parivaar a group of mostly unemployed young men who try to support their community through various projects. As with most free health camps this one attracted a large number of people some of whom had to be turned away due to the late hour. Although she was destitute, one women crying from severe stomach pain had to be brought to PKMMH for treatment. On reflection, I realized that no matter how many of these camps we conduct there will still be a much greater need primarily because people wait for “free” treatment rather than availing themselves of medical services on a routine basis. This might have to do with a lack of expert local medical care, transportation, a feeling that the care will be costly and lack of general health awareness.
Please check the photos below.
Teach for Nepal (TFN) is an organisation which brings young Nepalis to rural areas for a two year fellowship program to teach in rural schools. TFN’s partners include the Embassies of Finland and the United States, Hansaraj Hulaschand (HH) Bajaj and Buddha Air. TFN’s vision deals with a Nepal in which every child will complete secondary school with the knowledge and grades to be able to pursue a university degree of their choice.
At the camp besides adults, the doctors and dentist saw a number of school age children and I thought, what would it take to have a “School Nurse or Health Assistant”, somewhat similar to what TFN is doing in the education field, stationed at every government school? From growing up in the United States, I remember that if I ever became sick during the school day I could go to see the school nurse.
Why couldn’t the Nepal Government, or for that matter an NGO, partner with various embassies and the corporate sector, to develop fellowships for nurses, health assistants and even MBBS doctors so that these medical professionals could gain valuable experience for one to two years in schools throughout the country? Outside of school time these medical professionals could partner with community institutions, e.g. health posts, setting up at haat bazaars and attending medical camps to not only gain practical experience but to provide further care for the general population residing in those areas. For successful completion, in exchange the Government could forgive any student loans or retroactively provide back a certain percentage of medical school fees paid with stipends and housing fees coming from corporate sector partners.
This plan isn’t overly complicated but requires the “will” to enable the general population, especially children, to be properly educated and healthy. Why would a foreign embassy want to support a plan such as TFN? The answer lies in understanding that an educated population has the ability to take care of themselves and make informed decisions regarding health and other issues, achieving greater livelihoods opportunities and breaking the “cycle of poverty”. On the part of corporates, as we’ve seen from other parts of the world, there are a variety of business opportunities resulting from an educated population that is health conscious and has decent jobs with good wages.
The complicated part of the plan comes in changing attitudes about serving rural populations and somewhat delaying earnings while helping the greater good. But as can be seen from the success of TFN a change in attitude is possible, i.e. being okay with earning a bit less in the short term and taking a longer term career view. Free medical camps and other modalities for meeting the community where they are at should never stop. By establishing school health professionals at all government schools we can take one step further towards meeting the community on their terms enabling a healthier Nepal.
All photos link :https://www.facebook.com/mrosenkrantz/media_set?set=a.10206635241305640.1073742345.1410846536