It’s not every day that we get to see compassion meet commitment, and that is exactly what I witnessed during my trip to Gunsa, Sindhupalchowk. Gunsa is about 67 km to the north east of Kathmandu, which takes a 7 hour bus ride to reach. The single lane road to Gunsa is quite exhausting with lots of bumps and sharp turns along the way. Salome, another MFN volunteer and I, went to collaborate with Teach for Nepal fellows to dissemination information on health provisions in Nepal. Teach for Nepal is an initiative to make the public school system of Nepal better.
Our motive to go to the village was to meet the teachers or fellows, as they are known as, of Teach for Nepal (TFN) working there to disseminate and distribute info-graphics that explain general health rights, marginalized community’s health rights, women’s health rights, children’s’ health rights, and senior citizens’ health rights of Nepali citizens. The fellows had come together for their occasional cluster meeting conducted by Mr. Jalan Maharjan, TFN’S Leadership Development Manager for Sindhupalchowk. Our idea was to encourage the fellows to spread awareness about these rights to their students so that they can spread it to their communities. It was good to see how compassionate the fellows are about providing better education, and how committed they are to encouraging their students to become better people. Their approach to improve the public school system of Nepal was inspiring.
While we were in Gunsa, we also took a survey of the villagers regarding their health rights and facilities. I was happy to learn that they receive free medicines such as Paracetamol and Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) from the local health post. However, most of the locals are unaware of their health rights. They also claimed that their local health post has been mistreating them. According to them, the health post only opens for 4 hours a day from 10 AM to 2 PM. A woman even said that the health post officials would make fun of her during her visits to the health post. Some locals showed us medicines like eye drops, pain relieving gels, and antibiotics which were sold to them for high prices by the health post. In cases of urgent medical care and emergencies, locals travel 1 hour by foot to Manekharka village where Dhulikhel Hospital has opened up Manekharka Health Centre. The local micro hydro-power company has provided an ambulance to the village, but only some of the villagers can afford its service whose cost locals claimed to be above Rs. 15,000 back and forth the village. They were disheartened to tell us that these are their only options to receive medical treatment as they cannot afford to go to the city to get better health facilities.
What I learned about health conditions and facilities in Gunsa is downright pitiful. Even the fellows of TFN shared their own difficulties in accessing medical facilities near their schools. The call for health rights and medical assistance in Gunsa will hopefully not remain unanswered. Let us help Gunsa receive proper medication and health facilities. Here are some of the things you can do – Dial 111 for Hello Sarkar and enquire about the health condition. You can also call up the Ministry of Health and ask whether the health post is opening per their directive of 10 AM – 5 PM. Another thing you can do is write to the health minister, Mr. Gagan Thapa or the District Health Officer, Local Development Officer and the Chief District Officer and let every authority figure know that villagers of Gunsa aren’t alone in their struggle for improved life.
Few days back, when I explained about the health facilities to female heath volunteers, I was motivated to do similar presentation at my village too. My neighbors, friends and relatives appreciated me and it encouraged me to do some more. Cold early morning, just a 10 minute walk from my home, I attended a regular meeting of those females who were involved in social clubs. Most of them were married females who were taking responsibilities of their family so it was a great opportunity to present myself in front of them. Among the crowd one female was in her postnatal period and another was pregnant. After meeting was over, I presented myself as a volunteer of medication for Nepal.
I explained each and every health facilities that Nepal government is providing to general people and to marginalized and poor people. Most of them were aware about the free medication to some extent but not aware what are the diseases can be treated with the free medications. They were quite curious about the maternal health and child health facilities. During the interaction session, I came to know that majority of the females didn’t know about the health facilities to old age group. Like I had experience before with female health volunteers, these women also didn’t know about the diseases like Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. I tried to explain them what I know. They dint know about the health facilities that are given to poor people ( bipanna) . They didn’t know about the free checkup to infants (below 1 years). They also didn’t know about those facilities for kidney disease, cardio vascular disease and head and spinal cord injury. Yes, I found the difference between the female health volunteers whom I met at District health office and those poor women at my village. They were complaining about the essential medicine too. Some of them said, they had purchased medications like calcium tablets, iron tablets and Vitamin which is supposed to be given by government.
They were complaining about nepotism. They said that the health workers at government health institute provide the free medication to his/her own people but, they are deprived of it. They hardly get the plenty of medication and finally they have to rush to private clinic for treatment and medication.
During the session they were curious about the different diseases. They had lots of question how to get those health facilities, and I explained them in detail. I had to explain 3 times the procedure of getting health facilities to poor people. I tried to explain them about those diseases which can be treated at hospital and they get free medication. Majority of them just know about free medication for Tuberculosis. Finally, their question was “what if I don’t get those health services?” And I ask them to note down the number of hello Sarkar. They were quite positive and excited about it. With a hope and expectation they thanked me a lot. It was my duty to make aware to those females who don’t know anything about health. I really felt satisfied with my nursing education and serving my own people that too in understandable language.
This story is a featured story of a nursing student Binita Khatiwada who went to Taplejung(her hometown) for her holiday. She helped us by reaching out to that area and disseminating information from infographics about our health rights.
Constitution of Nepal states that everyone has the right to free basic healthcare. Yet, the most remote and marginalized people – those in most need of these rights – are largely unaware of those rights. The survey in Helambu’s 5 VDC showed that everybody was purchasing medications that they were supposed to get for free such as Cetamol, ORS, and cold tablets. They were traveling to Banepa and Kathmandu to get plasters on their broken limbs and for baby delivery.
Experts have spoken from different angles about those health rights, and there is a consensus that more needs to be done to close this knowledge gap and to help people access those rights. The goal of the conference was to invite health rights experts, constitution rights experts, and government officials to help us understand the rights and how to access those rights. Furthermore, we featured young initiatives and youth who are leading by examples. We invited:
- Dr. Nastu Sharma, Country Director of One Heart World Wide, who presented comprehensively about the different health provisions in places by Government of Nepal.
- Indu Tuladhar, Human Rights Lawyer, spoke about the provision our constitution provides to patients and every citizens.
- Dr. Surendra Bhandari, Constitutional Lawyer, presented his views on future of public health sector.
- Prakash Ghimire, Senior Auxiliary Health Worker from Management Division of Nepal, who shed light on some of the most evasive topic such as who is considered “Bippana barga” – ultra poor. Apparently, it is self-declared in Nepal.
- Grishma Maharjan and Sangita KC of Nepal Psychological Society, who are working to improve the mental health education system and awareness of importance of mental health.
- Dr. Kshitiz C Paudel, medical director of Amppipal Community Hospital, and MD (General Practice), who inspired the entire audience on the need to work for the greater good of the community. Watch the video here
- Dr. Sarad Baral, DHO of Accham, who has been serving the community in one of the most remote parts of Nepal. He believes the way to improve health care is community supervision because he says he can’t be everywhere, “It greatly helps me to supervise when the community starts supervising the health sector as well”.
- Dr. Saroj Dhital, Founder of Kathmandu Model Hospital, and a surgeon who has been working to create a strong community of professionals to improve the health care system of Nepal.
For the audience, the key take away was very clear – lots needs to be done to strengthen the health care system of Nepal and there is a lot of non-medical professionals can do to support the health care system.
We will be creating lots of new multimedia content about what we learned from the conference and forming partnerships across the board to make sure we try to reach every corner of Nepal.
Medication for Nepal has had the honor of consulting some of the most esteemed doctors, health experts and dedicated social sector professionals who have been wholeheartedly doing everything they can to improve the health sector of Nepal. The amount of knowledge and information that we gained through these meetings were enormous, and to build on that and take the knowledge flow and expertise sharing to the next level, we want to once again bring together these experts to debunk and discuss health care rights in Nepal.
On September 11th 2016, an event has been organized by Medication for Nepal, where experts from different fields – Health, Media, Engineering, and Social Sector will come together to create an aligned strategy to improve the health care system in Nepal. After gathering information about Health Rights, Policies and how to access them, we will get help from engineers, and technology experts, to develop partnerships that help us make health rights a priority agenda item across industries, and to create new channels to disseminate health rights information to the masses via new or local media. The event will be held at Leapfrog Technology Offices, Charkhal from 9:30am to 2pm.
With this event, we aim to grant every individual access to simple and factual information about their health rights.
We ran a survey in Helambu (5 VDCs) to get a sense of health rights awareness with a health of partner organization, and we found out that everyone purchased basic medicines – Cetamol, ORS, cold medicines, that they are supposed to get for free, 75% of the population were oblivious to the fact that Government of Nepal provides up to 1 lakh of treatment support for nine different disease areas. 25% people knew about this provision however none had ever seen it in practice. They are largely unaware of having any health rights at all, let alone how to claim them or file a complaint for non-compliance.
People are unaware about other important health information such as, basic essential medications to be available for free in public health posts, free heart surgery treatment for children below 15 years, free Dialysis treatment for diabetic patients and many more. MFN would like to fill this information gap with this event by collecting and disseminating valuable health information to the public. Our mission is to ultimately strengthen the public health care system of Nepal.