Dr. Rupchandra Bishwakarma
Born in 1985 in Kolti of Bajura district, Dr. Rupchandra Bishwakarma is known as the ‘rural doctor’. He has been running the ‘Physician in every remote district and village of the Far Western region’ program.
There were very few dalit teachers during the Panchayat years. And very few teachers were in the position to educate their children to become doctors. It was only because his father was a teacher that Dr. Bishwakarma could dream of becoming a doctor.
His father had been transferred to a remote district because of massive political interference. But, even though he taught at local schools, Dr. Bishwakarma’s father was frequently denied shelter and experienced caste-based discrimination from his students. Dr. Bishwakarma grew up listening to such harrowing stories of discrimination. The humiliation and discrimination didn’t end with his father – Dr. Bishwakarma also experienced various instances of caste-based discrimination.
Because of the inspiration from his father, he was interested in his studies from an early age. He studied at a community school in Dhangadhi. He completed his secondary and medical education on scholarships.
When he was a young child the students were given an afternoon snack of haluwa. ‘All students at the school are the same, but when we were given the haluwa, it was dropped from a height,’ he recalls incidents of discrimination.
When he drank water from the school water tap, his friends washed the tap and performed purification gestures. He experienced further discrimination while living in Chitwan and Kathmandu for further education. He took the humiliation of caste-based discrimination and transformed it into self-confidence.
Upon completing his MBBS, Dr. Bishwakarma went to Kailali as the head of the Malakheti Hospital. Later, when Dr. Bishwakarma arrived at the district hospital in Bajura, the state of the hospital began to change for the better. Bajura ranks at the very bottom of the Human Development Index for Nepal.People here are enmeshed in superstitions like child marriage, chhaupadi and caste-based discrimination. Dhami shamans are still consulted on illnesses. Maternal mortality rates are high because of prevalence of child marriage. Many people in rural villages have never seen the presence of the state or accessed doctors or health services. The district hospitals are not visited because they lack various services or because the doctor is usually absent.
WithDr. Bishwakarma’s arrival, various programs are being organized to create access to healthcare for people living in remote areas. He is tirelessly working to assure citizens in remote areas of their right to health services and to change the condition of health services in such areas. The ‘Physician in every village’ program was started in his initiative with the intention of bringing health services and doctors to all the people living in remote areas.It focuses on the remote areas and the people living there. It brings a comprehensive service to the villages where an X-ray machine, sonography machine, lab services, family-planning services and nursing services are brought to the local health post. The people are informed through local radio about the days when the services will be arriving at their village. Persons living with disabilities and the elderly are given priority.
The absence of a doctor in a community leads to diseases not being diagnosed in time and developing into more dangerous diseases. Dr. Bishwakarma says that the objective of the ‘Physician in every village’ program is to enable health service providers to diagnose and treat diseases before they become exacerbated.
He says that the number of patients arriving at health posts surges when people hear that a doctor is visiting. He has the experience of assisting many patients to diagnose their diseases by bringing laboratory services to the villages. At any one location between one and two hundred patients may make use of the lab services. If patients cannot be treated at the Village HealthCenters they are referred to the District Hospital for free of cost treatment.He has walked to remote villages inaccessible by motor vehicles.
InDr. Bishwakarma’s opinion, the state and other stakeholders should be actively engaged with the issue of healthcare services for citizens living in remote areas. He has been tirelessly campaigning to make higher levels of the stateaware of this idea by working with stakeholders at the local and district levels. He has also been proactive in implementing government programs on safe maternity and immunization.
Most civil service officials think of a posting in remote areas as a burden and punishment. But Dr. Rupchandra Bishwakarma has been gladly serving the people of the district in which he was born. He has put aside his pursuit of higher education while he tirelessly works for the health services and rights of the people.