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Field Visit: Rural Health Care

October 15, 2010

in Nepal, Philanthropy

Mountain Madness president and CEO Mark Gunlogson joined me for an excursion into the Nepali countryside so that he could check out Changing Lives Nepal in action. Our foray into the “hills” began as field visits often do: with a crazy motorcycle ride. Monsoon rains are hardly gone, and the dirt roads are deeply rutted. We were off-road riding on street bikes, two to a bike, and occasionally in 8 inches of mud!

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Street bikes aren't made for this--Mark gets off to walk when we hit the muddiest spots.

Our first stop was Melamchi Hospital where I’ll have a family doctor volunteering for three weeks this fall. Three hours outside of Kathmandu, we got a quick education in rural health care: 80 patients a day, 25 baby deliveries a month, and serving an area of nearly 300,000 people–all with one Nepali doctor, two toilets, and no separate room for newborn babies–so they are sent away after 6 hours to help prevent infection from other patients.

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The woman on left gave birth 3 hours ago. Her infant (swaddled in red and white on bed) is at risk for infection in this public patient ward.

Nepali doctor Romi Dahal has been working nearly two years in this rural hospital to pay back the government scholarship he received for his education. His commitment and enthusiasm have helped bring an ultrasound machine to the facility and doubled the patient load because people have heard that a good doctor is here. Villagers walk for two, six, or even ten hours to reach him.

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Dr. Romi Dahal and his staff see nearly 80 patients a day at rural Melamchi Hospital.

Along with treating routine stomach ailments and delivering babies, Dr. Dahal does everything from post-mortems to abortions. With no proper facilities, post-mortems are done in the yard where curious people come to watch. Abortions have only been legal in Nepal for 3 months, and he already performs about 15 per month. Generally the husband or boyfriend is along for support, which surprised me.

Dr. Dahal is excited about the opportunity to work with an American doctor for 3 weeks and has high hopes for the exchange of knowledge and experience with him. At TEAM Nepal, we’re assessing our ability to help construct new toilets and/or a separate labor and delivery recovery room for newborns.

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