A group of trainee medics is preparing to visit Nepal to provide essential medical care to poor rural communities.The students, all from St George’s, University of London, are organising the second annual trip to Nepal as part of the student-run project Health Partnership Nepal. They will be joined by doctors and nurses from St George’s and elsewhere, when they travel to the South Asian country in April.

They will run two medical camps and three surgical camps, providing free primary care, surgery, and public health to people who otherwise could not access essential treatment. The two-week trip follows the success of last year’s inaugural HPN visit, and is run in partnership with Nepal Medical College and Teaching Hospital.

 



Final-year medical student Jess Ng is on the HPN committee, and has been instrumental in setting up this year’s trip. After a successful expedition last year, Jess is eager to return to Nepal and continue to strengthen the ties with the rural communities.

“The idea is to keep going year after year and to make this sustainable. This year we’ll be focusing a lot on the public health side, as many of the problems we see could be solved at a much earlier stage. We’ll be visiting schools to give advice about family planning, sexual health and smoking, for instance. Hopefully when we go back in the future we’ll see improvements to people’s health.”

The medical camps will be based at Kharanitar and Deurali in central Nepal, where access to healthcare is scant. Last year, the medical camp teams saw more than 3,000 patients, offering consultations, hospital referrals and medication, as well as free prescription glasses. Similarly high numbers are expected this year.

The surgical team did more than 70 operations last year, including general surgery, paediatrics and obstetrics and gynaecology. These were mainly simple operations such as hernia and hydrocele procedures that would be done immediately in the UK but are usually left untreated or, as Jess says, “chronically neglected”, in Nepal. Prolapsed vaginas are another common problem in the area, so the team will also be focusing on those. The surgeons expect to do up to 100 operations this year.

The eight students taking part will be accompanied by 12 doctors, 11 nurses, four surgeons, and three anaesthetists. The professionals – from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a number of other UK hospitals, some of whom are St George’s alumni – have given up their own time and money to travel with the students. They will supervise and guide them in providing healthcare in an environment with such limited resources.

Jess said: “When we got there last year, the health centre we were going to be using at had nothing in it. It was just a dusty, dirty, concrete building, so we had to make it usable, with equipment borrowed from the medical college.

“It’s a very different working culture from what we’re used to. We went to a hospital in Kathmandu and one of the things we saw was a newborn baby lying in a corridor on her own. Their resources are nothing like ours, although their medical knowledge is excellent. The work is really getting back to basics, and I think that will make us better doctors in the end.”

Jess is not expecting to have much free time to see the sights of Nepal, but is eager to set off.

“It’s extremely hard work, but extremely rewarding. It’s a privilege to go out and have the opportunity to really make a difference.

“The best thing about this project is that it’s run by students, and it feels like our own project. It’s about putting your own blood and sweat into organising it and making it a success. It’s a lot of pressure, but it makes it more worthwhile.”

For more on the HPN, go to http://www.hpnepal.org/index.html