Some of you may know that in March this year I swapped my Associate Professorship at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, for a volunteering position at Dhulikhel Hospital / Kathmandu University in Nepal. Let me first tell you something about the situation in Nepal, something about the hospital and physiotherapy, and then how you can help.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Fifty-seven per cent of the population lives on less than $3/day. Life expectancy (64 years) is 15 years lower than in developed nations. Annual health expenditure per capita is $30, compared to $3503 in the UK, $4775 in Australia and $8362 in the USA. There is a shortage of health care facilities, resources and health care professionals. If fact, there is a shortage of everything. It is hard to imagine, but in winter, when there is no melting water from the Himalayas to drive the hydro power stations, there is no electricity for 18 (!) hours per day, everyday. And this applies to the entire country, including the capital Kathmandu. Even during the monsoon season, we have no electricity for approximately 6 hours per day. There are many other examples, such as limited drinking water, oil and gas supplies (so bitterly cold in winter), a female literacy rate of only 43%, etc., but let’s focus on more positive things.
One of many positive initiatives is Dhulikhel Hospital, which opened in 1996 as a community hospital to provide compassionate, quality and affordable health services to those in need, mainly the poor and the underprivileged. A day and night in the hospital, including three meals, costs $2. If that is beyond the patient’s means, hospital fees are reduced or waived, but care continues.
Access to healthcare is extremely limited in rural and remote parts of Nepal. The hospital has therefore established a network of 20 outreach centres. Medical teams, including physiotherapists, travel regularly by jeep from the hospital to these centres to provide basic health care (see image above). These outreach centres don’t only function as health centres, but also as community centres, supporting the local community through small development loans (micro-finance).
There is an enormous need for physiotherapy in Nepal. For example, COPD is more prevalent as 65% of households cook over smoky wood fires; birth-related women’s health complications are common due to unavailability of perinatal care; musculoskeletal injuries are common due to heavy physical labour, etc.
Several organisations, such as the Swiss Association for the Support of Physiotherapy in Nepal, have been instrumental in establishing the only Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree in Nepal at Dhulikhel Hospital. The course is now entirely delivered by Nepali staff.
We are certainly heading in the right direction, but to continue the hospital’s activities and to further develop physiotherapy education and provide essential services, we need your support.
For those who would like to help, we have set up a PayPal account where you can make a donation using a credit card. Money raised will be used to purchase essential equipment, train staff and set-up awareness campaigns in the community.
Michel Coppieters (PhysioKUSMS@gmail.com)
Michel Coppieters is Associate Professor at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia. He lectures on the neurobiology of pain and pain management for both the undergraduate and masters programs. Michel directs the Neuropathic Pain Research Group, which combines clinical research lines and basic science experiments. The aim of the research group is to improve the management of people with persistent pain.