The Rural Paradox

rural paradox

While trying to refrain from a complainer’s mindset, we often ignore discussing problems and hence seeking solutions.

The problem of having less time has existed from the day time and consciousness intersected. There are 24 hours in a day despite most of us wishing for more. I have been many things for many of those 24 hours: a student, an intern, a daughter, a friend, and a doctor. Most of the time, I’d be playing some combination of those roles. While an avid supporter of the make-time mentality, I have struggled with what one might call “Rural doctors paradox”. Simply put, the paradox is: there are supposedly fewer cases, and less severe cases in the rural, so few doctors are posted there which dramatically decreases doctor to patient ratio and has its multi-facet consequences.

What do you imagine when I say a rural doctor? How many patients a day does she look after? When does she wake up? How does her day go by? What does she reflect on while lying on the bed at the end of the day?

Not falling victim to the narrative fallacy, I would like to break this complex story into digestible chunks. Today I present you with challenges I as a rural doctor running a 24-hour emergency and a PHC can recall.

Beans again!

At the surface, it would seem like my mom’s lifetime of an attempt at hard-wiring my brain with negotiation skills failed when I agreed to buy potatoes at the offered price. The reason wasn’t my inattentiveness during those joyous negotiation classes I received, rather a phone call I used to dread the moment I stepped out of the PHC premise. “An unconscious middle-aged male is brought to the ER…”, said my health assistant. I was out buying vegetables for the week. I had to rush to the ER; 15 minutes of a run, tempo, hitchhiking, or teleportation.

Do hell with potatoes; I’ll make beans for dinner today, again!

Good but far.

“The view is serene, climate adequately cold and it is just 35 minutes away from here”. The picnic spot pitched by an office staff really stood out. Everyone was excited before we proceeded to choose, by lottery, the unfortunate souls who’d be in duty on the day. I was lucky enough to not have to stay, but that meant we would have to comply with the 30 minutes rule. Being 30 minutes far from the PHC would provoke anxiety of not reaching the PHC on time if need be. The consensus was it was not worth the risk.

Not me! The USG doctor!

“Why would the doctor make us wait for so long?”, said a patient to no one in particular. She has been waiting for her obstetric USG for an hour or so. After taking a quick shower to get rid of the stench and bacteria I accumulated from doing an autopsy on the days-old body, I rushed down to the USG room. “I hope no serious case arrives at the ER today!”, I find myself thinking. That day, while going to my bed, I reflected that the patient wasn’t mad at me for being late. Not the whole of me anyways. The me that was in the autopsy, she is fine. The patient was angry at the USG doctor. It just so happens to be me too.

Just another rainy day

Brinjals, Potatoes, Rice, and some medication: that is a typical to-get list of a villager who walks for quite some time to get to the marketplace on Thursdays. “My child often gets feverish! It was a market-day so I could not bring him with me”, says the 116th patient on a typical Thursday.

There are days when we literally wait for patients while enjoying the bright sun and delicious peanuts too. Busy-ness has a predictable spectrum in Beltar.

Like any other predictable spectrum, there are curve-balls once in a while. Those are the days that I remember the most when I look back.

Cite this article as: Carmina Shrestha, Nepal, "The Rural Paradox," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 2, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/09/02/the-rural-paradox/, date accessed: November 30, 2020

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.