Dr. Krishna Paudel: Master of Public Health, 2019. Director of the Kanti Children’s Hospital, Nepal.
This video is a collaboration between Dr. Paudel and Niraj Shrestha (Master of Public Health, 2015) to showcase the vital COVID-19 work of the Kanti Children’s Hospital in Nepal.
Nearly 10,000 kilometres away in Nepal, the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis looks very different for Dr Krishna Paudel (Master of Public Health, 2019).
Nestled in the heart of Kathmandu, Dr. Paudel is the Director of the Kanti Children’s Hospital, the only Government-run children’s hospital in Nepal. As such, the hospital is the sole option for low-income families in Nepal who cannot access private healthcare. Managing an institution that is so crucial to public health brings pressures that are only exacerbated by the demands of a global pandemic.
Most of us are unaware of the unique challenges of healthcare in a developing country. In leading the Kanti Children’s Hospital, Dr. Paudel has to contend with significant limitations in resources and supplies. As COVID-19 swept across the world, the lack of adequate protective equipment was a major hurdle for Dr. Paudel to overcome within a hospital that is reliant on support from a government whose resources are already stretched. With disruptions to supply chains across industries, managing and maintaining regular hospital service is “complicated by the short supply of essential goods in the market.”
Resource scarcity is, of course, far from the only difficulty. For Dr. Paudel, the people he deals with everyday are at the forefront of his mind. He is aware of the impact that fear has had on his staff and patients, as waves of hysteria spread faster than the virus. Dr. Paudel’s leadership role means he has to also manage the psychological distress of the frontline workers. Many staff have had to quarantine themselves from their families, and he is understanding of the impact that loneliness and isolation can have. He himself has had to contend with the separation from his children due to quarantine requirements. Maintaining morale and motivation, while remaining empathetic to individual struggles is a constant struggle.
While the challenges are multitudinous, Dr. Paudel constantly reminds himself of the value of his work. “This is definitely a difficult time,” he reflects, “but this is also an opportunity as a health-worker to serve humanity.” His passion for development in his home country fuels his drive. He is all too aware that “thousands of people are hopeful for our service”, and rather than seeing this as a pressure, he feels an intrinsic ethical and moral duty to serve needy people with the continuous priority of broader public health. It was this zeal to improve the state of healthcare in Nepal that drove Dr. Paudel to pursue his Master of Public Health at the University of Melbourne.
As a recipient of the prestigious Australia Awards scholarship, Dr. Paudel arrived in Australia to study in 2018. On his experience, he reflects that student life is “very precious” and advises current students to learn from each other and make the most of the talented networks at University. Dr. Paudel himself is still in touch with many of his professors and sees all the people who have supported and guided him as his “respected Gurus” in expanding his knowledge of public health.
Dr. Paudel understands the shifting demands of public health and COVID-19 is not the first major crisis that he has faced. A mere 18 months into his medical career, he joined the Government of Nepal as a Medical Officer where he was in charge of a remote Primary Healthcare Centre in the West of the country. This was in 2005, as Nepal was plagued with civil war and overrun with armed conflict and disputes between rebel groups. “We were the only government officers who were allowed to work by the then rebels,” he says, recalling the difficulty of leading clinical and nonclinical programs within a landscape of nationwide turmoil.
Dr Paudel’s experiences in Nepal provide an important perspective on the diverse global demands of public health. It is humbling to see individuals committed to the pursuit of public health for the most vulnerable communities, not only in times of peace, but in inconceivable situations of conflict and upheaval. Dr. Paudel began his career as a Paediatrician, and his passion for children’s wellbeing continues to be his personal motivation.
“The smiles of satisfaction I receive from parents or children on follow up and their innocent behaviours always keep me hopeful.”