What has your experience been like working with the hospital here?
I think it’s a wonderful hospital. I love coming here. It’s not always easy for me, for various reasons, but I have absolutely no hesitation in wanting to help as much as I can. Clearly the transitional period following Professor Devkota’s death was very difficult. He was very famous, and it was like a magnetic attraction: patients came from all over Nepal to see him, often without neurosurgical problems. Inevitably now, with the change of staff, it’s been a difficult transitional period. What strikes me is the way the hospital’s survived. One might have thought it would completely collapse once he had gone but that’s not the case at all.
How do we implement affordable and accessible healthcare in rural areas in Nepal?
I’m not a public health expert. A major problem in Nepal, apart from the poverty, is poor infrastructure. In Europe, you can get patients fairly quickly from rural areas to central hospitals. That is often impossible in Nepal. You have to compromise, and you have to have more peripheral small hospitals out in the rural communities than you would in wealthier countries with more favourable terrain.
Nepal has many problems. If you wanted to design a country to have difficult problems, Nepal is that. We all know being landlocked is a major problem for economic development. Having all these mountains and adverse geographical features makes life difficult as well.
This is how to upgrade Nepal’s rural health, Sewa Bhattarai
Policies for the people, Marty Logan
Is free health care possible in Nepal?, S P Kalaunee
What are some of the values you want to pass on to the younger generation of surgeons?
Firstly, to ask for help and not try to think you know everything because we don’t know everything. As young doctors, we’re often very anxious and frightened and we have to pretend to patients that we’re better than we are. We often end up pretending to ourselves as a way of boosting our self-confidence. It can be easier. I speak from personal experience; I can think of many patients who came to harm because I made this mistake. I didn’t ask for help from someone more experienced than myself.
My message to young doctors is it is OK to feel frightened. That’s the nature of the work. You can’t be a good doctor, particularly when you’re young and fairly inexperienced, without being anxious and frightened. Don’t feel ashamed to say “I don’t know”, not to the poor old patient, but don’t feel ashamed to say to a senior colleague “I need your help”.
The other advice I give to young doctors, apart from ask for help, is listen to patients. So many doctors, including myself when I was younger, just sort of talk at patients rather than talk with them. Purely in terms of making a diagnosis and making the right decisions, listening to the patient’s story is very important. I’ve worked all over the world and medical systems vary all over the world. Doctors vary all over the world. As far as I can tell though, we’re all the same as patients: we’re frightened, we’re anxious, we want to be treated with respect. We want to be treated with respect and doctors are often bad at doing that – particularly in rather hierarchal societies like Nepal.