Health facilities in rural Taplejung face shortage of doctorsMost doctors do not wish to go to remote areas for work and those who do go stay for two to three months only.
The Primary Health Centre in Tellok, the administrative centre of Sirijangha Rural Municipality in Taplejung district, did not have a doctor until recently. The post for an MBBS doctor at the health centre had been vacant for a long time.
Due to the absence of a doctor at the health centre, villagers had to go all the way to the District Hospital in Taplejung Bazaar, the district headquarters, to receive health facilities. As Tellok is not connected to the road network, villagers had to walk for seven hours to reach the district headquarters.
“This is the first time I am seeing a doctor at the health centre since I got elected as the chairman of the rural municipality,” said Tika Gurung, chairman of the rural municipality.
According to him, the municipal office had to charter a helicopter and take three critically injured patients to Kathmandu in mid-September since the health centre did not have a doctor.
“As the patients were critically injured, we were unable to carry them to the district headquarters and had to rescue them in a helicopter. If we had a doctor at the primary health centre, we could have treated them there,” Gurung said.
To prevent such situations from occurring again, the rural municipality on October 3 appointed a MBBS doctor at the primary health centre, said Gurung.
“An executive meeting of the rural municipality decided to appoint a doctor. Dr Bhuwan Subedi, a resident of Morang, has been called here,” said Gurung.
Meringden Rural Municipality in Taplejung also established a seven-bed Covid-19 Hospital in Santharka last week. Ganesh Limbu, chairman of the rural municipality, said, “The hospital has been set up at the health post building. We have appointed Dr Alina Paudel at the facility for three months. We faced difficulties while searching for an MBBS doctor but we somehow managed to hire one.”
The local unit plans to organise health camps in every ward of the rural municipality for the next three months, Limbu added.
However, there are still many local units in Taplejung that have been searching for a doctor but unable to hire one.
Bishwo Sitaula, chairman of Aathrai Tribeni Rural Municipality, said, “On September 27, we opened an advertisement with a 15-day deadline asking for an MBBS doctor. But we have received no applications yet. We are making efforts to bring a doctor to the health post of the rural municipality.”
Similarly, Phalelung Rural Municipality has also set up a Covid-19 Hospital but the health facility has no doctors. Binod Chauhan, chief administrative officer of the rural municipality, said, “The central government has provided us with Rs 1 million to appoint a doctor, two nurses and one office assistant. Though we opened a vacancy announcement for a doctor, we have received not a single application. We are still searching for a doctor.”
Medical doctors are only available at the district hospitals in Taplejung, Panchthar and Tehrathum districts, among other hilly districts in Province 1.
“We are facing problems in running health facilities in the absence of doctors. The government has not provided us with any health workers. Even the health workers that arrive here stay for only two to three months. They don’t wish to stay in remote areas,” said Gurung, chairman of Sirijangha Rural Municipality. “Because of this, there's a shortage of health workers in almost all health posts of the rural municipality.”
Currently, there are only four doctors working at the District Hospital in Taplejung.
“The four of us are working in a 15-bed District Hospital. Most of the posts of doctors in remote areas are vacant, as those positions are not filled from the central level,” said Dr Sonim Lama of the District Hospital. “Also, a majority of doctors do not wish to go to rural areas to provide health services.”