Posted by Piali Mukhopadhyay
Nyaya Health is grateful to Ten Friends for the generous donation of three light-weight patient stretchers, for use in Bayalpata Hospital’s catchment area. Ten Friends is a registered US non-profit, founded by two school teachers living in the state of Oregon. Over the period of its operation in Nepal, Ten Friends has been involved with a variety of programs, such as distributing light-weight stretchers to remote locations with poor health infrastructure, creating water purification systems in orphanages, and building libraries in rural villages.
The stretcher program originated when Rand Runco, co-founder of Ten Friends, observed the severe challenges of transporting a sick patient while on a trek in Nepal. The injured patient, who was being carried on a heavy-weight, poorly-constructed stretcher, was unable to reach a health facility in time and died. Rand recognized the need for improved equipment and began designing a new stretcher with a team of people, including his students in Oregon. The design had several key features, including durable and light-weight material and easy-to-use handles. Once a prototype was created, donations were mobilized to fund construction and several stretchers were distributed in remote Nepali villages.
The positive response that ensued encouraged Ten Friends to manufacture and distribute additional stretchers. At this stage, over 100 stretchers have been successfully disseminated in remote mountainous areas of Nepal. Feedback from users suggests that the stretchers are flexible, durable, and effective at reducing patient transport time by more than 50%. Ten Friends recently established a local manufacturing site in Kathmandu to facilitate more cost-effective production.
In Achham, the need for light-weight stretchers is critical. Patients often come to Bayalpata Hospital from areas between 2 and 6 hours away, and sometimes even over 24 hours away. The majority of patients either walk or are carried on the backs of relatives or community members. A minority are brought to the hospital in heavy, inflexible metal stretchers. The mountainous terrain and lack of road infrastructure amplify the difficulty and danger of the transportation process. For individuals with severe illnesses and injuries, the length of travel time can make the difference between life and death.
The donated stretchers will be distributed in three villages that fall within Nyaya’s community health worker catchment area. The stretchers will be kept by the CHWs, as this provides both access to the general public and oversight of their use. Since our CHWs already have a strong presence in these communities, we will be able to advertise the stretchers to the community, train villagers on how to properly use them, and receive regular feedback. Stretchers that are used to transport patients to the hospital must be returned to the village storage site.
Distribution will occur in the month of September and reports of subsequent progress will be posted on this blog. The Nyaya team is excited about the prospect of introducing this essentially-needed device within communities in Achham, as well as collaborating with Ten Friends.