Medical Volunteer Work in Solukhumbu

 
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The need

According to the United Nations, Nepal ranks 138th in the world in overall human development. Government hospital services in Nepal are very poorly resourced, with limited equipment and range of medical supplies and drugs, which often in remote areas can be delayed and runs out before the next delivery. Nutrition is inadequate and vaccination rates are poor. Specialized services are practically nonexistent.

This program is recommended for trained medical and nursing professionals, as well as student nurses, PA students and medical students who will work under the supervision of a local physician. In this program volunteers learn firsthand the reality of the medical challenges in a developing country.

We have teamed up with the Salyan Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) to support and empower their medical staff. Our fundraising trek is sponsoring much-needed medical equipment that will improve the level of medical facilities available to the community. Our volunteers will spend 2 days hosting free health clinics for the public and providing medical training to the health center staff when applicable.

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Understanding the medical system in Nepal

In the rural villages of Nepal, health centers have difficulty retaining experienced doctors due to the lack of resources. Some physicians spend a limited amount of obligatory time working here as repayment for educational sponsorship, but many eave to go to work in Kathmandu or abroad. Government physicians’’ salaries are low compared to the developed world, about the same as a secondary school teacher in the area. Most doctors in Kathmandu have a private practice to supplement their income, or work in a private hospital.

When there are no doctors, nurses stand in to do the job of a doctor, which they are not trained to do. There are different types of nurses:

  • Medical Health Worker: 6 months training, usually responsible for immunizations and assisting the CMA or ANM.
  • Assistant Maternity Nurse (AMN): 18 months training as a midwife.
  • Community Medical Assistant (CMA): 18 months training which covers medicines and is the qualification for running a pharmacy.
  • Health Assistant (HA): 3 years training and is more senior than a CMA or AMN.
  • Staff nurse: With more than 2 years training and with experience – rarely found working in health posts and more likely to be found in the rural hospitals.

Patients normally pay a nominal amount for hospital maintenance costs all of their medical care: registration, tests, medicines, bed, operations etc. Some people living in the villages have never gone to Kathmandu before in their lives, so referrals to get treatment in Kathmandu are often not realized and the patient goes untreated.

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What to expect

In Nepal, there are 65 government-funded district hospitals; the Solukhumbu district has 1 hospital, 2 primary healthcare centers, and various health posts. The Salyan PHC is larger and offers more than a health post, but less than a hospital.

The Salyan PHC is staffed by 1 full time medical doctor, 1 rotating doctor, and other health staff and serves 15,000 patients per year. The facilities available now include untreated running water, patient beds, laboratory for blood, test, urine, and stool tests, X-ray, and ultrasound.

We will have 2 days to run health clinics and medical trainings, which will be broadcasted to the public before our arrival via FM radio and word of mouth. 200 patients per day can be expected. We will be providing specialized medical services at the Salyan PHC where basic medical facilities are available. Our specific services will be dependent on the medical specialties of our volunteers. Under certain circumstances, a mobile medical team will be deployed to hike a portable ultrasound machine to neighboring villages to provide prenatal care. Our Trek Relief staff and the Nepali medical staff will be able to assist with translation.

There may be opportunities to build sustainable and long term solutions through training of local providers who may be able to offer similar services in the future or on a more long‐term basis.  By educating and empowering the community, we are creating a solution that lasts longer than our presence alone. If you have a medical topic that you would like to share with the medical staff or even the public, please let us know! Example medical talks: women’s health, proper dental hygiene techniques, basic first aid, etc.   

Common ailments

GENERAL MEDICINE

The most common complaint in Solukhumbu is “headache”. Sore eyes, gastric, skin, throat and pulmonary problems are very common, with a whole range of ailments from high blood pressure (common) to rheumatoid arthritis. Health clinics have reported commonly running short on antidiarrheals, antibiotics, and drugs for symptom support. 

DENTISTRY

Oftentimes patients come in with complaints about toothaches. If proper equipment is brought, dentists may be able to perform basic cleanings, tooth extractions, and fill cavities. Painkillers and antibiotics for tooth/gum abscesses will be useful. There is currently no dental chair available at the Salyan PHC. We would welcome a trained dentist to help us identify ways to realize a dental clinic.

OPTOMETRY/OPHTHALMOLOGY

Common eye conditions seen in the mountains are conjunctivitis and cataracts. Donations of glasses of different powers would be useful, as well as eye examination equipment. There is a need for eye drops: anti allergy  drops, normal saline for dry eyes and flushing foreign bodies, and topical antibiotics.

DERMATOLOGY

Dermatitis, impetigo, and fungal infections are common skin ailments. Bringing medicines and ointments to target these conditions would be gladly received.

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Where the funds go

We are raising funds that will support our free, mobile pharmacy, supplement limited medical stocks, and sponsor much-needed equipment requested by the Salyan Primary Healthcare Center. Some of these items include:

  • Oxygen concentrator
  • Glucometer
  • Fetal doppler
  • Water purification plant
  • Vital sign monitor
  • Computer
  • Dental chair

What to bring

  • Medical scrubs or lab jacket
  • Basic examination equipment: stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, otoscope, supply of disposable gloves.
  • Special equipment needed to perform dentistry, eye checkups, etc.
  • Optional: medical donations to stock the Salyan PHC and surrounding health posts. If you know of supplies/equipment going to waste in your workplace and can get a hold of them, please let us know! We will be purchasing medical supplies in Kathmandu with our raised funds.

customs and documentation 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges related to the shipment of supplies and materials is getting them cleared through customs.  Please let us know in advance if you are bringing medical donations so that we can arrange transport logistics.

To be a medical volunteer you must be licensed/certified or currently enrolled in medical/nursing school. Please send us a copy of documentation showing your level of training.