OPD patients find doctors in canopyProblems in 57-year-old Sabitra Gautam's left foot began, coincidentally, with the shutdown of out-patient departments in public hospitals across nation five days ago.
With over 400 public hospitals across the country stalling their OPD services in protest, Gautam's family had two options: to ride out the illness or visit private hospitals. The family chose the first one. Then news came that the Nepal Medical Association (NMA) would be running a temporary free health camp at Tundikhel on Thursday. Gautam dragged her husband and her daughter from Bhaktapur for a quick check-up.
Gautam was one of over 500 patients who flocked to Tundikhel on Thursday to see doctors otherwise on strike.
Since Sunday, doctors have deferred their OPD duties in solidarity with Dr Govinda KC's protest against the government. Dr KC has been staging a fast-unto-death since January 11, demanding primarily the end of political meddling in health and education affairs.
The colourful canopies were set up in response to mounting criticism that poor patients are bearing the brunt of the government-doctor struggle.
Gautam has little idea about the protest and the demands, but is glad she finally got to see an orthopaedist, who prescribed her an ointment and some tablets. "But this does not feel like a real medical treatment," says Gautam.
The only consolation, she says, is that the queue was shorter compared to that in the original OPD at the Teaching Hospital.
Sumit Ghimire, resident paediatrician at TUTH
and one of around 100
doctors at the camp, understands that Tundikhel is for people to sunbathe and enjoy peanuts.
He also sympathises with patients having to suffer because of the strike, but believes that the shutdown is a necessary evil.
"In order to pressure the government to reform
the health sector, we have
to stop some of our regular hospital services," says Ghimire.