Yogesh Dhakal, Lukla- Solukhumbu: Solukhumbu is famous for the silver capped tallest mountain in the world – Mt. Everest. Adding to its natural trekking routes that deliver some of the most delightful adventures, this reclusive Himalayan district is famous for its religious and cultural heritages. In the recent decades, Lukla has been catering to the needs of its guests by providing a blend of world-class and local hospitality flavors. But these are more or less expected. What I found most astounding was Lukla’s hospital. I could not help sharing experiences of my visit to this healing center located near the highest peak in the world that truly proved to be the real Sangrila on this earth.
Located just about a kilometer away from the Lukla’s main town, the Pasang Lhamu Nicole Niquille Hospital clad in blue teen is awe inspiring as its architect blends in perfectly with the blue sky above and snow capped mountains around. I have been habituated with the stench of urine and phenyl blended with the staled air of Kathmandu’s major hospitals and of course was expecting the same when I reached there. But it was different. It was Pasang Lhamu Nicole Niquille hospital and that too it was not in Kathmandu it was in Solukhumbu. Thus by far the hospital was polished top to bottom. It was spotless and the ambience was so good that a patient would even recover from it. Of course medicine should be there.
So far I have got the opportunity to witness some of most dilapidated hospitals in rural Nepal, not to speak of those located in the heart of the nation. But the Pasang Lhamu Nicole Hospital was a different experience. It is equipped with most of the modern facility that we can think in such a remote area. Established in the late a of 2005 by joint efforts of the Switzerland based Nicole Niquille Foundation and the Pasang Lhamu Mountaineering Foundation, the hospital is equipped with an emergency care service and has a capacity to attend 25 in-house patients.
Though the hospital does not performs complex surgeries and lacks a MRI machine for advanced imaging services, it has been equipped more essential equipment and provide gynecology, dental, surgery and general physician services. Along with that the hospital provides Ultra Sound, Blood Test, X-Ray, Urine testing among others. Since its establishment, the hospital has been the first choice of Everest expeditioners for medical treatment.
Two doctors, two nurses and a ANM provide service to patient who come here after a hard trek up and down the steep snow capped mountains which sometimes shoot up to three four days ordeal, hospital’s administrative chief Pasang Lhamu Sherpa said. Stressing on the lack of human and material resources, Sherpa said that the hospital refers patient with complex type of ailments to other hospitals and even arranges flight tickets for needy people from the trust.
Of the 22 staffs that provide unrelenting services at this hospital, some of them are foreign volunteer doctors who serve as a charity to the society. These volunteers usually provide service to the hospitals and patient for six months. The hospital as a token of appreciation to their service to the local community has provided well-furnished lodging and dinning arrangements within the hospital premises. Presently the hospital is also working hard to establish a canteen for the patient’s caretakers.
So how was this healing center established making Lukla a Sangrila?
Unlike the urban centers in Nepal, Lukla is one of the remotest places on earth. The whole of Solukhumbu region lacks sufficient resources to provide proper adequate medical attention to the locals.
At the end of the year 2002, founder of the Switzerland based Foundation Nicole Niquille Hospital Lukla, a non-political, non-governmental and non-profit organization, signed an agreement with the Solukhumbu based Pasang Lhamu Mountaineering Foundation for the construction of the hospital building at Lukla.
Driven by the zeal to provide health service to the local community people, who would walk miles carrying the patient on their back for medical treatment, Nicole and her husband Marco were excited when they signed the agreement. On their return to Switzerland this couple put all their efforts to garner support for this project.
After an intense workout they succeeded in wining the confidence and support of some of most prominent social, political and business entrepreneurs in Switzerland for the project.
This charitable organization included some key personalities which included former Swiss President, former member of government, former federal Councilor, former director general of International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC), Politicians, Famous Doctors, Journalists Footballer, mountaineers, and skiers to name a few. After discussion the charity was renamed as “Foundation Nicole Niquille, Hospital project Lukla” in February, 2003.
Since that day the charity has been putting all its effort to make the hospital even more resourceful and useful to provide best health services to the local community.
Translated and Edited by Chitra Raj Bhandari for Yogesh Dhakal who did this story upon his recent visit to Solukhumbu, Nepal.