Healthcare in Nepal
In Nepal, people with conditions such as leprosy, spinal cord injuries, and other disabilities are often still seen as cursed and actively excluded from society. Their self-image can often be marred. They may have lost all sense of worth, seeing the future as bleak and unliveable. This is why INF's Shining Hospitals are needed in Nepal.
The Shining hospitals - Specialist Treatment and Health Care
INF runs three Shining Hospitals with teams of medics from Nepal, and around the world. There is also a medical and surgical outreach programme (traditionally known as camps). This takes specialist treatment to areas where the Nepali government is only able to provide limited facilities.
The largest of the hospitals is The Shining Hospital Green Pastures. This is in Pokhara, one of the largest cities in Nepal. The others are The Shining Hospital Banke (in the border town of Nepalgunj) and The Shining Hospital Surkhet.
The aim of INF's Health Care
Our aim for our patients is not just treatment and rehabilitation. We want them to be able to go back to their communities with hope and a sense of a positive future. Many patients stay in hospital for several weeks, some for months. The contact with peer counsellors, pastoral care workers and staff means that they regain confidence and hope.
No one turned away
Patients with disabilities are often very poor and medical care is rarely free. The aim is that our Poor Fund will mean that no one will be turned away because they cannot afford to pay.
“Patients should get the best treatment that resources allow – clean wards, kind nurses, kind doctors. We want to give them a complete treatment and be able to share God’s love."
Dr Dipak Maharjan, Medical Director
Health and life restored
Health care is not usually free in Nepal. Even the cost of travelling to the nearest hospital can be prohibitive. This is especially true for people scraping together a meagre living on the land. Life can be very hard, especially in the remoter regions. Traditional beliefs and practices may not encourage people to seek medical help.
Kalpana was married at 14 and became pregnant at 17. She endured seven days of labour before her child was stillborn. As a result she was left with a tear in her bladder, an obstetric fistula, which left her constantly wet and leaking urine. This condition is almost unheard of in the West because of the care given to women in labour. Sadly, stories like Kalpana's are all too common in Nepal.
Kalpana was regarded as an outcast by her family and community. Her husband divorced her and remarried. She now farms a small piece of land and has a cow and an ox. To earn extra money she carries heavy loads, often more than her own bodyweight.
Obstetric Fistula Camp
Thanks to Dil, an INF nurse who visits local health posts, Kalpana heard about the Obstetric Fistula Camp. This is run each year by Shirley, our gynaecologist. The camp was held in an unused building in the grounds of a government hospital. Kalpana was one of 37 women who travelled there for fistula repair surgery.
Kalpana had already been to two previous camps, but operations had been unsuccessful. However, she did not give up hope and returned for a third year. This time the procedure worked and Kalpana returned home to a new life, no longer smelling or leaking urine.
Above: The Shining Hospitals have three locations in the western half of Nepal.
The History of the Shining Hospitals
Pat (Lily) O’Hanlon and Ruth Watson walked back from a visit to one of the villages outside the small town of Pokhara. As they crossed the Parade Ground for the first time, they immediately thought this would be the ideal place to establish a hospital.
The two women had arrived in Pokhara in 1952 with a small band of colleagues. They longed to bring compassionate medical care to the people of Nepal. Up until this point they had been living and working out of bamboo and thatched huts, on land owned by a Nepali Christian they had met in India. They appreciated his generosity. But the land was quite a way from the centre of Pokhara, and the Parade Ground seemed ideal.
There were protests from various people. But the owners agreed to let the women have the land. Lily O’Hanlon recalled, “For the first five years we had an agreement with the Brahmins and rented it from them for the princely sum of 5p a day.” Part of the terms of the lease were that no buildings could have proper foundations. Under Nepali law, this indicated that the land belonged to the owner of the building. So the first buildings erected were bamboo and thatch.
The Pokhara valley can be visited by quite impressive storms. During one of these the roof of the building used for inpatients completely blew off and better accommodation was needed before the monsoon arrived.
The first of the shining hospitals
In 1954, the team heard about a company in Calcutta which made prefabricated aluminium huts. They ordered a “Twin-Block” and a “Long Tom”. The crew which came with the buildings erected them in about ten days. This caused great interest in the hills around the valley, and it wasn’t long before a group of women turned up to find out what these “shining houses” were. Shining Hospital was a nickname which stuck and was even used by the Government.
The hospital gradually grew. New departments required more buildings including a midwifery unit and an operating theatre. Tropical diseases accounted for about a quarter of the patients. But they also saw people with broken limbs, burns and snake bites. Tuberculosis was a major problem and in 1976 the Shining TB Clinic was opened.
When King Mahendra and his Queen visited the hospital in the 1970s he decreed that INF should work with government health services in Pokhara. This led to the development of Gandaki Zonal Hospital, run jointly by the government and INF, and the Western Regional Hospital. As a result, the Shining Hospital was no longer needed and eventually closed down.