“I have witnessed many untimely deaths in my community due to lack of general treatments. So, my soul refuses to take a leave while there are hopeful patients waiting.”

The residents of Karnali lack access to basic services. The health services available to these residents are very poor. However, according to the government mandate, five medical officers, equal in rank to section officers, should be posted in the area as there is a lack of doctors. Residents complain that the medical officers who are posted in Karnali only stay for a short period of time, with the goal of being transferred or receiving a promotion. Dedicated health workers like Punya Prabha Devkota only sustain the health services in these areas.

Karnali’s Favourite Nurse

Punya Prabha Devkota was born in Jumla. Her father was diagnosed with Asthma when she was very young. The family had to walk for hours to get his injections, and sometimes, they would wait for up to three days to receive treatment. Tragically, her father died because they could not access basic treatment in time. Punya Prabha was saddened by the untimely deaths of many people in her village. As a result, she decided at a young age that she would become a health worker to serve the people in her community.

Punya Prabha has now served as a Senior ANM for 19 years in the district hospital of Mugu in Karnali. She has spent many sleepless nights on the  doorsteps of patients, and in some instances she has delivered children on the road, wrapping the child with her own scarf. Punya Prabha has generated a growing awareness among villagers, urging them to go to the hospital when they feel sick rather than resorting to untrained medical practitioners. There are many patients who are not familiar with the medical officers and will go searching for her; women in the village feel far safer knowing that they do not need to travel far to receive treatment while Punya Prabha is in the area.

Always Ready to Serve

Dusk or Dawn, public holiday or festival, Punya Prahba has never left her patients stranded. She has often sacrificed family time on holidays to take care of patients and has spent many festivals at the  bedsides of those in need. She has not celebrated Tihar with her brother for the last two years, but she does not complain about this. She says she has come to realise that she is fulfilling the meaning of her name; in Nepali, Punya Prabha means “one with high moral standards”.

Supportive Colleague

Punya Prabha does not turn away anyone who needs her help. The number of health workers in the hospital is low but the flow of patients increases each day. Often when health workers are late for work due to personal reasons, they ask Punya Prabha to cover for them. She never refuses their requests and is always available to help. The typical shift of a health worker is 6 hours per day, 42 hours per week. However, Punya Prabha has always worked more hours than her typical shift and would never count the extra hours. She never saw spending time with her patients as a burden because she is passionate about her work and sensitive to the needs of others.

Calm and Simple

As she provides her service day and night, the flow of patients remains high. Critical conditions lead to a tense atmosphere in the hospital. However, Punya Prabha stays centred. She consoles the patients and relatives, and listens to their problems calmly. This helps keep the patient in a good state of mind and allows the relatives to relax.

Minimizing the Risk of Abortion

Abortion is a risky matter. There is an alarming trend of unsafe household abortions conducted by women who use dangerous household techniques. In some cases, these techniques cause the untimely deaths of the pregnant women. The government has legalized safe abortion procedures for unwanted pregnancies within a certain time period after conception. Safe abortions are performed by trained health workers at various health insititutions in the country. Punya Prabha provides this service in Mugu District Hospital. Abortion remains a contentious issue in Karnali.

Eight months after the safe aborition procedure was introduced to the hospital, women have started using it. Punya Prabha has played a significant role in creating a safe and comfortable environment for women seeking the procedure.

As Punya Prabha was born and raised in Karnali, she has an intimate understanding of the problems facing this community. She can feel the pain of the patients and stands as a trusted caregiver for all seeking medical attention. For the people of Karnali, Punya Prahba has proved herself a blessing.