The Lady Willingdon Hospital, Manali, India
The Lady Willingdon Hospital, also known as the Manali Mission Hospital, is a 45 bed hospital in the far north of India. It is a Christian Mission Hospital, although there are staff members of other faiths and everyone is welcome.
Manali is in the foothills of the Himalaya. Due to its natural beauty, it has become a major tourist destination for foreigners and Indians (and is arguably the honeymoon capital of India). At an altitude of approximately 1500m, the town is covered in snow in winter, and in summer becomes an escape from the searing heat on the plains. Although Manali is a town of only 5000, the hospital serves a vast poor population from distant villages with limited health care.
India (population 1 billion) is the largest democracy in the world. Consistent economic growth of approximately 8% per year puts India on course to be a superpower. However, this economic progress relates mainly to the major cities and has little relevance to rural communities where extreme poverty still exists.
Volunteers in Manali gain very broad medical experience dealing with diseases of both the developing and developed world. Apart from adult medicine and paediatrics, there is plenty of obstetrics and gynaecology and there is opportunity to assist in surgery. The hospital seems to have a commitment to training, and over time resident doctors learn many procedural skills.
- Plain Xray, four ultrasound machines (doctors perform the scans). There is no CT, MRI, or Echocardiography.
- Basic biochemistry, haematology and microbiology but with limited culture.
- Access to a full range of pharmaceuticals
- Outpatients clinic twice a day (the main workload)
- Participation in ward rounds each morning
- On call 1-2 nights per week
- Opportunity to assist in surgery one day per week
- Supervising elective medical students
8.30am-5pm with 1 hour off for lunch. The workload varies greatly. In the warmer months, when the mountain pass is open, outpatient numbers increase greatly. Manali is also inundated with tourists during summer.
Good quality accommodation is provided free of charge to volunteer doctors. Most rooms have a bathroom with commode (western) toilet. There are no showers, hot water is available for a "bucket bath".
Hearty nutritious meals are available for lunch and dinner from the staff cafeteria for a small fee (approximately 50 Australian cents). There are dozens of restaurants on the main street, in Old Manali and in nearby Vashisht.
Numbers vary, but there are usually four surgeons, one paediatrician, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, one physician and three residents. There is a dentist, physiotherapist, optometrist, pharmacist, radiographer and a number of highly trained nurses who fulfil multiple roles.
The state language is Hindi, which is also the national language. All the doctors and nurses speak English, and nurses are available to assist with translation. It is strongly encouraged to learn some Hindi, and while I was there a member of staff was kind enough to give lessons.
Being a tourist destination, Manali has many restaurants, travel agencies, internet cafes and even a couple of English language bookstores. There is no bank as such, but there are a many currency exchange bureaus where traveller's cheques can be cashed.
Manali is about 16 hours from Delhi by bus. There is a regular overnight service from Paharganj (the main tourist hub near the old Delhi railway station). The bus station is in the centre of New Manali, which is only about 200 m from the hospital.
- The whole region is incredibly beautiful, with many options for day trips and hiking. Manali is on the way to most destinations in far north India.
- Solong Nullah - ski field and adventure playground near Manali. (After a few days' work at the hospital, the paragliding will no longer look like fun.)
- Rohtang Pass - 4200m pass leading to Lahaul, Ladakh and all beyond.
- Dharamsala - home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile. Approximately 10 hours away by bus.
Dr Philip Alexander
The Lady Willingdon Hospital
Manali, Kullu District
Himachal Pradesh 175131
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