13th October 2016

A week with our mobile medical team

Medical Corps Cadet Bryony Hastings recently spent five weeks shadowing some of our medical staff in Nepal as part of her elective – a compulsory part of every medical degree.

Our mobile medical staff trek deep into the Himalayan foothills to care for housebound and isolated Gurkha veterans and widows. During times of crisis, they can provide support where it’s needed the most.

“The aim of my elective was to understand how beneficiaries’ health is managed in those patients who are no longer able to attend the [GWT] Area Welfare Centre (AWC) clinics. Therefore I spent one week with mobile doctor Dr Yubaraj Thapa and his guide, Santos, a local 20-year-old in Syangja District of West Nepal. GWT employs 12 mobile doctors.

“The mobile doctors’ role is to visit the GWT pensioners who either live too remotely or are too frail to travel to the AWCs. As a result, the visit from the mobile doctor is the only time that many pensioners can be assessed, treated and managed by a qualified medical practitioner. The mobile doctor can trek for days through the dangerous mountain terrain and through all weather conditions in order to deliver much needed medical attention to these pensioners.”

During the five days Bryony spent with Yubaraj and Santos, they visited 13 pensioners. Their working day began at 6am and finished at around 7pm each evening. The majority of travel was on foot carrying heavy equipment such as medication, patient notes, glucometers and more.

Nepali hospitality

“On arrival at the pensioners’ homes, we would be greeted by family members who were very appreciative and grateful to see the doctor. They expressed this by providing meals and overnight accommodation in their homes when needed. Dr Thapa would begin his consultations by finding out about how their health had been since the last visit. He carried a copy of their medical notes containing information from previous doctors’ visits. I was able to carry out a full examination of each patient including listening to the heart and lungs, measuring blood pressure and blood glucose levels.”

Another large part of our mobile doctors’ job is to provide reassurance and advice to the family members of our pensioners. Most of them live with, and are cared for, by their children or grandchildren. As a result, our staff often give advice on how to manage bed sores, how to provide palliative care at the end of life and how to provide a low salt diet.

Our pensioners are growing older

“The elective gave me an insight into what kind of health problems the pensioners have. A large proportion of the pensioners had diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. These diseases can be well managed with medication in order to reduce the risk of complications such as heart attack and stroke. However, without a visit from the mobile doctor, these patients would not receive the medication which can prevent these complications and potentially extend their life expectancy.”

“I feel that as the GWT pensioners become older and frailer, the mobile doctor role will become increasingly important. I would urge anyone who is able to make a donation in order to support the continuation of the mobile doctors’ programme.”

Please note: unfortunately we do not, under normal circumstances, offer medical attachments with our field team.

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