KATHMANDU, Nepal — The waiting tent outside the Nepali military field hospital in Kathmandu was a surreal sight over the weekend. Instead of patients waiting for treatment, there were doctors sitting on hard plastic chairs, waiting for a place to volunteer.
One of the people outside the tent was Pushkar Bishwokarma, and he was frustrated. The 24-year-old Kathmandu resident is in his last year of medical school and he was desperately looking for a place to volunteer his services.
Bishwokarma is exactly the type of person who should be in high demand right now: a Nepali student with perfect English, who can communicate with the wave of international aid workers. He also has local cultural knowledge that will help him understand the needs of the earthquake victims from rural areas, some of whom have tried tribal medicine for their injuries when no medical help arrived.
His medical knowledge is fresh, he speaks Nepali, and unlike the thousands of international doctors that poured into Nepal after the April 25 earthquake, Bishwokarma will not get on a plane and leave in a week.
If anyone needs to be trained in emergency medicine to deal with earthquakes, it’s Bishwokarma . It’s not the French and Russian and Japanese doctors who caught the first flight to Nepal, independent of aid organizations, and are now also fighting for places to work.
Brig. Gen Dr. B Sribastava, one of the coordinators and spokespeople for the military hospital, spoke to the eager doctors in between briefings with journalists, but he didn’t have many openings. The field hospital spent the weekend winding down and is moving back into parts of the hospital that were declared structurally sound. Less than a hundred of the 1,000 people treated at the field hospital are still hospitalized, and the number of new victims arriving has trickled down to much lower levels.
“I’m trying to get involved, to do whatever I can to help,” Bishwokarma said.
Bishwokarma had spent the past few days canvassing the city for somewhere to volunteer and he didn’t know where to go next.
“We don’t have the manpower in Nepal, and things are not organized equally,” Bishwokarma said. “The main patients and victims are not treated according to any plan. Lack of organization is our main problem here. Yes, there’s help coming from other countries, they’re trying to give so much, but I don’t think we’ll get that help,” he said. “I mean, I’m a victim of this earthquake, it’s been a week, and I haven’t even gotten a bottle of water in aid. This is very poor management.”
Bishwokarma’s family is safe, but his house in Kathmandu was heavily damaged. The family spent three nights in a tent, and has just moved back into the ground floor of the house, because they are too scared to go any higher. He is unsure if the ground floor is structurally safe, but his family has no other choice.
He added that this lack of management following the earthquake didn’t surprise him, because it was also nonexistent before the earthquake.
But he was frustrated to see so much money and resources thrown into Kathmandu, from aid organizations around the world, with dubious effectiveness.
“It seems like they just come here for the publicity,” Bishwokarma said. “People are not getting the help they need.”
Bishwokarma said that the earthquake made him more sensitive, and will also make him a better doctor, even if he can’t volunteer directly in the aftermath.
“This situation taught me that as a doctor I am here for the people,” he said. “Before, I thought of it as a career. Now I know how hard I must work in every situation. This is my country and these are my people. If I don’t do this, who will? The foreign people will leave, but I will stay here for a very long time.”