NEPAL TRIP (5th to 12th Jan 2014)
On the 5th of January 2014, 34 medical and non-medical volunteers, known as Karuna Medical International, arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal for medical mission work. Over two days, a primary school in the village of Bhaktapur was converted into a polyclinic that comprised of the triage, consultation rooms, operating theatre, pharmacy and a radiology room with ultrasound imaging capabilities. The medical team comprised of specialists in Plastic surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Orthopaedic Surgery, Dermatology, General Surgery, Paediatric Haematology/Oncology, Radiology, General Practice, two senior operating theatre nurses and four medical students.
Over four consecutive days, the polyclinic saw a total of 1340 patients, averaging at 335 patients per day. The patients, some whom had spent days to get to the clinic, were given a basic health check-up at the least. The local authorities joined in the efforts by deploying soldiers to facilitate the smooth operation and crowd management at the mission site.
Adele Lee, a 2nd year medical student at Monash University recalled her experience. “Being on the ground gave me a fresh perspective on healthcare and its provision. Primary healthcare is a fundamental human right and it was extremely heartwarming to having been part of the effort to deliver that service. This experience proved to be very insightful and is definitely the first of many more to come.”
In addition to consultation services, minor procedures were also performed. This included removal of viral warts and suturing of lacerations just to name a few. Patients with less-than-optimal vision were assessed and given appropriate glasses to improve their eyesight. Electrocardiograms and ultrasound investigations enhanced the formulation of treatment plans for the patients.
Final year medical student Ernest Cheng who was also the Chief Pharmacist played a pivotal part in the smooth operation of the polyclinic.They worked their way meticulously through all the 1340 patient forms and ensured that every patient received their correct prescriptions. With over 80 types of medications available, it was truly a feat.
“This is my second time volunteering in Nepal. Both trips had been very rewarding and enriching. This year, my role in managing the pharmacy had given me the invaluable opportunity to learn as well as teach others about medications. Working in the stressful environment allowed me to understand the challenges involved in working efficiently and swiftly while ensuring prescriptions were accurately matched. Overall, it was a great start to my final year as a medical student and transition to becoming a doctor. I hope to continue my work in this area and with the same team even after graduation”, said Ernest.
Women’s health was one area that was neither widely available nor accessible in Nepal. With gynaecologist Dr Maurine Tsakok (left in picture) on board, the team was able to provide the specialized service for women who presented with gynaecological issues. Makeshift examination beds were created with thin foam sheets fastened to study tables using duct tape. Patient privacy was also maintained by the construction of cubicles using toggle rope and curtains.
Overall, the mission was a very successful one and team will be making another trip to the same site in January 2015. It aims build upon the current system to further improve the method of healthcare provision to communities so as to increase the outreach to a larger region.
By Sathisvaran Kanavathy
Monash MBBS Year 3B 2014