As a child growing up in a remote region of Nepal, Dr Aban Gautam was accustomed to frequent infections— and dangerously long journeys to the nearest hospital.
His mother would find someone from the community to carry him on their back to take him to the nearest health centre two days away from where he lived. It was all barefoot—through the rivers, through the jungles.
The inaccessibility of healthcare in critical moments stuck with Gautam, who went on to become a prominent doctor and founder of Mountain Heart Nepal (a non-profit NGO), which brings mobile medical clinics to those in need in rural regions of the country. For years, Gautam has travelled across Nepal, supplying life-saving medicines, equipment, and medical care to some of the poorest communities in Nepal.
When the Nepalese government began building a tunnel from the capital city of Kathmandu to the Terai region through the largely impoverished Makwanpur district (where the average household earns about $1.90 USD per day), he saw an opportunity. Currently, it takes about six hours to travel from Makwanpur to Kathmandu. With the addition of the tunnel, travel to and from the district is estimated to take only one hour. Additionally, Makwanpur’s administrative city, Hetauda, is connected to the low-land Terai region by a network of highways, making travel between the two relatively easy. If a hospital were to be built in that region, it would allow those in the Makwanpur district and the larger Terai region of Nepal to gain access to potentially life-saving medical care through doctors from the capital city- Kathmandu. Gautam decided to build this hospital— one that would change the face of healthcare in Nepal forever. He would call it the Siddhasthali Hospital Project.
To gain funding, Gautam started gathering information. The region was desperately in need of healthcare, especially once COVID-19 began. While pregnant women were scared to go to the hospital, midwives feared entering other homes. As a result, pregnant women were delivering their children at home without professional care, causing complications like postpartum haemorrhage, as well as high infant and maternal mortality rates. COVID-19 patients were dying due to a lack of oxygen. Preventable diseases were turning fatal. The need was there, so he got to work.