All-female staff at health post in Baglung draws praiseService seekers, mostly men, are not used to seeing an all-female staff manning a health post. But for female patients, the health post is a welcome change, health workers say.
Gwalichaur Health Post in Badigad Rural Municipality-5 is enlisted as an ‘A grade’ health facility and is run by all-female staff.
Sushila Resmi has been in charge of the health post for the past five years. She says it took the local population quite a while to get used to the idea of seeking health services at the health post without male staff members.
“These days around 100 patients visit the health post on a daily basis. Some of them come all the way from neighbouring Gulmi district,” said Resmi. “Most patients and their relatives who visit our health post are surprised to see only female health workers.”
Resmi said many male patients still ask for male health workers because they do not trust female health workers.
“Health workers in rural areas are still facing gender-based prejudice,” said Resmi. “It takes much coaxing to get the patients to agree to be examined and treated by female health workers.”
Resmi, however, takes pride in the fact that the health post is run by female staff entirely. She says it is a “welcome change” even though many patients have still not warmed to the idea of an all-female health post.
“While female patients have no problem visiting us, many male patients still ask for male health workers. Some men outright refuse to be examined and treated by female health professionals,” said Maya Ghimire, an auxiliary health worker at the health post.
But in her experience most male patients who are suspicious eventually let their guard down once they learn that female health workers are equally capable as their male counterparts.
“Only a few patients make harsh comments and mock us for what we do,” Ghimire said.
Arjun Kharel, a school teacher, said many people in rural parts of Baglung still believe that doctors and senior health workers should be men, hence the prejudice faced by the staff at Gwalichaur Health Post.
“The important thing is the quality of services the health post provides. But some people still do not trust women working as senior health professionals,” said Kharel.
But there are also some downsides to being an all-female health facility, according to Kalpana Acharya, an auxiliary nursing midwife at the health post.
“For example, during the Covid-19 vaccination drive, the crowd was unruly. We had a tough time managing the crowd. We got help from the health post management committee and police. We also asked some local male volunteers to help us set up Covid-19 wards and arrange beds,” she said.
The health post provides outpatient department, laboratory, child delivery, and maternity services, among others. A social organisation has arranged for a health worker, a maternity ward and a lab at the facility.
“We used to face difficulties while providing maternity services earlier. So we referred the patients to other health institutions. We have the necessary tools and equipment now. We have been providing safe maternity services now,” said Resmi, who leads the health post.
Resmi herself received maternity service at the health post last year.
“Everything went well even though our facility does not have an ultrasound machine, which could make the maternity health services much more effective,” she said. “Local women would be relieved if we could provide ultrasound services at the health post. They wouldn’t have to go anywhere else to seek full maternity service then.”
According to data available at the health post, more than 100 women receive maternity services at the facility every year. The health post has been providing regular prenatal tests, laboratory facilities and free of cost medicines.
The health post has the post of a doctor but it has been vacant for a long time.
Chudamani Kandel, the health unit chief of Badigad Rural Municipality, praised the services provided by Gwalichaur Health Post and pledged to provide the necessary support.
“We will help the health post in every way possible to enable it to provide complete health services,” he said.