Nepal: Standing Firm on Shaky Ground

Nepal’s doctors and medical workers are compensating for poor infrastructure with fierce commitment

Vivek Singh

Kathmandu: On April 25, 2015, the day of the earthquake, Dr. Pawan Kumar Sharma cycled the full three kilometres from his home to the Patan Hospital where he is the medical director. “I made sure my children and wife were alright and then took off,” said Sharma, when we met him on the day after the second big quake, and he was dealing with the ‘new’ crisis. “I stopped cycling whenever I felt a tremor, and continued when it abated. This way, I made it in less than 30 minutes. I didn’t have a choice – I was needed at the hospital.”

Once at the hospital, Sharma stayed there for three days straight. “I had to presume my family was safe through the tremors,” he said.

Vivek Singh

In the nearly one hundred hospitals across Kathmandu, as well as in countless smaller healthcare outfits dotted around the city, the earthquakes and the ensuing medical crisis brought out the best among the country’s health professionals.

The Patan Hospital seemed best-prepared of all of Kathmandu’s hospitals to respond to large-scale disasters. We were told that the hospital conducts mock drills every six months. “The timing, staff response, everyone was so well tuned. Everyone knew what to do, whom to look to for help, what to say and what not to,” said Dr Ashish Shrestha, a senior doctor with 12 years of experience. Shrestha was on the frontlines of Patan’s response. He handled many of the more than 1,000 patients who came to the hospital in the days following the disaster. There were 57 deaths at the facility.

Vivek Singh

A disaster triage area was set up immediately, and patients taken to different areas marked green, yellow and red, based on the severity of their injuries. The hospital was able to handle the tremendous inflow better. “We have nearly 900 staff here. Most of them knew what to do and therefore reacted well,” said Sharma. “Looking at how my staff reacted, it gives me great hope.”
(written by Sibi Arasu, photos by Vivek Singh)

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Sibi Arasu is a journalist living in Chennai. Vivek Singh is an independent Delhi-based photojournalist.
Their reporting was supported by Public Services International.

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