SIMIKOT, Nepal – As part of a global health engagement, members of the U.S. Army’s 18th Medical Command and Special Operations Command Pacific, partnered with Health at Home, a Nepal-based nongovernmental organization, to meet the basic medical needs of over 500 people living in Humla, Nepal.
Last month U.S. Soldiers traveled to Simikot, Nepal, a remote-mountainous village located in the Northwestern region of the country.
“We started this conversation one year back with the 18th Medical Command, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu, Health at Home; we jointly devised this initiative [to host] a specialty health camp,” said Dr. Bishal Dhakal, the managing director of Health at Home.
He said the visiting doctors specialized in ophthalmology, orthopedics, ear, nose and throat care, gynecology, and internal medicine.
U.S. Army Dr. (Maj.) Sean Chislett, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said he and his Health at Home counterpart “took care of disorders that can range from ear infections, throat infections, problems with tonsils, neck masses, thyroids problems, disorders of the nose and sinuses.
Chislett said they saw patients and brainstormed “together on different presentations” while working out the “best treatment options” and providing various kinds of assistance to help this outreach be successful.
Health engagements across villages, towns or cities rarely require the same needs, scale and scope. Success for “Humla Outreach” engagement largely depended on the specific needs of the individual village.
Dhakal added the specialties were recommended by the health care workers at the local hospital who noted the need for certain specialties among the local population.
He said the locals have access to primary care, but not the kinds of specialties offered through the engagement.
Simikot is a village of a little over 4,000 people (according to the most recent information available) and sits at an altitude of 9,547 ft. With no roads in or out of the village, receiving medical care requires time, money and flexibility, all of which may not be available to the common villager — especially in an emergency situation.
Dhakal added there is no option to access quality healthcare in the city centers for patients with serious issues, which is why these kinds of outreach efforts are important.
Some patients walked — or were carried by family members — for hours from their villages to receive care from the visiting health team at Simikot.
The health camp team experienced the same types of travel delays experienced by the villagers, which are typically caused by unpredictable weather conditions and access limitations.
“This is one of the places in Nepal, which has no [road] access,” said Health At Home Dr. Anushruti Shrestha. “You have to come here by airplane and even us, when we’ve had so many months of planning ahead of time, we still had to delay the camp.
“The weather’s changing all the time,” she continued. “This place [is very inaccessible] and [with] the U.S. Embassy coming in, and Health at Home, and all the doctors from Nepal as well as America; we’re all here together and we’re trying to help a place in Nepal that has very little access, very little reach, and I think it’s a huge, huge deal.”
In spite of the delays, the U.S. doctors continually expressed their gratitude to be able to travel 7,115 miles from Honolulu to Simikot to collaborate with and advise the Nepali doctors during the outreach.
It feels really good to be able to come out to a place where I know that they are very underserved,” U.S. Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) Dennis Fuji said. “People here are coming from all over the region to receive healthcare.
“It’s been really rewarding to be able to help provide … services to these people, the TAMC doctor said.
The U.S. and Nepali doctors saw positive results from their engagements.
“The thing that I’ve been most impressed with from this engagement so far, is how well the patients have been taken care [of] by the local population,” said U.S. Army Dr. (Maj.) Nathan Jordan, a comprehensive ophthalmologist at TAMC.
U.S. Army Medicine and SOCPAC Pacific continue to navigate ways to assist the citizens of Nepal.
“This culture of going beyond the standard of practicing Army healthcare practices is definitely understanding the civic side of it,” Dhakal said. “There is also very interesting terrains to deal with and it’s very complicated at times.
He recognized 18th Medical Command for its efforts to modernize how Army medicine was utilized to help the citizens of Nepal.
“I definitely see they are trying to open up a new horizon for the service oriented and the service lined doctors, nurses, paramedics, and all those folks who are working and serving in line, that there is beyond Army duties that comes in every day,” Dhakal said.
He also expressed appreciation for those willing to travel to austere environments and provide medical help to those who have limited access to it, adding they also get an amazing experience in return.
“There is also a human prospect to it,” Dhakal continued, “There’s a value that you carry and there are chances you get to go and explore it – it’s beautiful!
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