Last November, a speeding bus in Argakanchi lost control and tumbled down a mountain, killing 19 and injuring 18 passengers. Three weeks later, another bus careened off a serpentine road in Sindhupalchok, killing 16 and wounding 18.
Seven Nepalis die every day in road and highway accidents. Shocking though that statistic might be, the number of injured is much higher. On average, 40 people are injured on roads across the country each day. Last year, there were nearly 13,000 road accidents in which 2,736 people lost their lives and 10,731 were seriously injured.
Read also: It’s an emergency: Nepal needs to improve trauma care, Sanghamitra Subba
Highway accidents are now the biggest killer of young men and women in the country. The causes are usually carelessness and speeding, and poorly-maintained roads and vehicles. The number of accidents are rising faster than the increase in the number of vehicles.
Those who survive often have traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, requiring long-term or life-long rehabilitative care. But the state of rehabilitation in Nepal is nearly non-existent. There is no government rehabilitation centre, and while some private hospitals do offer inpatient physiotherapy, none have dedicated acute rehabilitation units and none employ physical medicine and rehabilitation consultants.
“Forget about prioritising it, rehabilitative medicine is not even included in the healthcare system of Nepal,” laments Raju Dhakal, the only physical medicine and rehabilitative doctor registered in Nepal. “Every hospital has a cardiology unit, intensive care unit and even physiotherapy but no rehabilitation unit. This should be integrated in the healthcare system rather than treated as a separate entity.”
The Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) in Sanga, founded in 2002, is Nepal’s largest inpatient rehabilitation centre and the only one specialised in spinal cord injury. The 51-bed hospital treats patients from all 77 districts and provides inpatient rehab for 300 individuals a year.
It also conducts outpatient care, home follow-up visits, community outreach programs, and a residential vocational rehabilitation program to help people with disabilities integrate back into society and to better equip thier families to deal with their special needs.
The only other facilities with dedicated inpatient rehabilitation beds are Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara and the Hospital for Rehabilitation and Disabled Children in Kavre.