23 May 23
Visit to Manbu Health post
My name is Dr Stephen Vercoe and I recently returned from Manbu where I was volunteering on the PHASE GP mentoring scheme, supporting two Auxiliary nurse midwives – Saraswati and Sushila- who are working at the PHASE health post in the village. I spent just 8 days there but it was enough to show me how essential their presence is to this remote community, providing as they do, the only source of primary health care and health education. Whilst I witnessed excellent teaching of and collaboration with local community health volunteers, it was evident that there was no government provision of qualified health practitioners in this area whatsoever. Without PHASE, people would have to travel to the nearest hospital in Arughat – a 2 hour bus ride or day’s walk away- for all medical services.
I was impressed by so many aspects of the care provided by the PHASE ANM’s but above all by their dedication and expertise in dealing with the full range of medical problems that presented to them every day, including trauma, infectious diseases, chronic disease and obstetric care. One of PHASE’s key achievements has been a reduction in maternal and perinatal mortality in these remote regions by encouraging women to deliver in the safe clean environment of the PHASE clinic rather than running the risk of a home delivery, unattended by any health practitioner. The impact of this became apparent during the Covid pandemic when families were unable to leave their homes and reverted to giving birth in poor conditions with a subsequent recurrent rise in mortality figures but this has once again improved post pandemic with PHASE being able to provide safe obstetric care in their well-equipped and staffed clinic.
The PHASE clinic has an impressively stocked pharmacy (all medicines funded by PHASE) with a full range of antibiotics, emergency and other drugs regularly checked and maintained by the ANM’s. Just one example of the value of this was the availability of Aciclovir for Herpes Zoster (shingles). I saw a 15 yr old girl (photo) with shingles affecting her face and eye – it is crucial to treat this promptly with antiviral drugs to preserve vision in the affected eye and this we could do, but only because PHASE staff were there to see her, make the diagnosis and start prompt effective treatment. It has been very rewarding for me that Sushila has been able to send this photo of the patient (with her permission) to me after my return home to show complete healing and recovery of vision.
Manbu is a very isolated poor community and I feel strongly, from first-hand experience there, that it is most important that the excellent primary care service established there by PHASE is continued. I hope the necessary funds can be raised to ensure that is so. For my part I will continue to visit the PHASE staff out there regularly to support them in any way that I can.