Nepal Disaster: Shifting Needs for Physicians, Specialists

Troy Brown, RN

May 01, 2015

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April has left many healthcare professionals wondering how they can help.

Thousands are dead after the earthquake struck 48 miles northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 25, 2015. The earthquake, which occurred at 11:56 AM local time, has affected as many as 8 million people in Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and at the Nepal-China border, according to the American Red Cross. The earthquake caused an avalanche at Mt Everest south base camp in Nepal that killed 19.

More than 6000 people are confirmed dead and approximately 14,000 have been injured, according to media reports.. The number of casualties is expected to rise, as many are believed to be still trapped under rubble. Thousands of people are unaccounted for, and about 2.8 million have been displaced. Many of the displaced are living outdoors in cold, wet conditions.

International Medical Corps: Enough Medical Professionals — For Now

"We were actually on the ground when the earthquake happened and we began mobilizing a response. This included deploying our own [paid] staff as well as expatriates [and] volunteers, and working within the existing infrastructure in Nepal," Margaret Traub, head of Global Initiatives, International Medical Corps (IMC), told Medscape Medical News.

"In all of the countries where we respond in emergencies, we are always looking to supplement the existing health infrastructure because the most effective response is going to be a local one," Traub said.

She said IMC has enough people in Nepal at the moment, but getting to the people who need help is the biggest problem.

"You can have enough people, but if you can't get them to where they need to be, that's the biggest challenge," Traub explained. "Many of these remote areas we're having to access by helicopter or walking in."

"Helicopters are great in terms of being able to see what the destruction is and accessing some areas, but we're contending with mountainous regions [and landslides], so access is the biggest obstacle right now," she added.

"We have doctors, nurses, trauma surgeons, and pharmacists. Looking forward, we're going to be facing broader communicable disease issues, [with] the potential for cholera [and] diarrheal diseases. As the monsoon season is approaching, we'll be facing waterborne diseases, and because of the altitude, upper respiratory infections, particularly among children and the elderly," Traub explained.

She urged healthcare professionals interested in volunteering in Nepal to sign up on the IMC website.

"What frequently happens in these crises is they shift, and they change, and all of a sudden the needs are different," Traub said. "It's very important to have people and a network that we can access to be able to deploy the right kinds of specialists at the right time. If medical professionals are already in our system…[we can] matrix different expertises with the people who have applied."

"Our recruiters are looking for combinations of expertise, language skills, experience in the region, those kinds of things," she added.

People interested in keeping up with IMC's work in Nepal can do so via Facebook and Twitter, Traub said.

"Our Facebook and Twitter presence is really robust and we're putting out a lot of information throughout the day."

IMC is also accepting donations on its website.

Médecins Sans Frontières: "Not Recruiting for the Current Emergency Response in Nepal"

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is providing mobile medical services via helicopter in remote mountain villages north of Kathmandu, and a medical team is providing consultations and assessing additional needs in the mountains northwest of Kathmandu.

A nurse and doctor are assisting with the medical evacuation of patients from Barpak, in the Gorkha district. A surgical team consisting of a surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse is managing surgeries at a referral hospital in Bhaktapur, and a surgeon is assessing the referral hospital's capacity.

France sent four inflatable tents to construct a field hospital on April 29 and a team is assessing the best location to set up the hospital.

On May 1, MSF announced that 24 tons of cargo had arrived in Kathmandu.

"[P]lease note that we are not recruiting for the current emergency response in Nepal. MSF does not recruit for specific locations or emergencies," Tim Shenk, press officer for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières told Medscape Medical News.

"Anyone interested in working in the field with MSF can apply online but must be open to work in the country to which they are assigned. Assignments are based on the needs in the field and the skills of the field worker," he said.

MSF is also accepting donations on its website

American Red Cross Has Committed $1,000,000

The American Red Cross has committed $1,000,000 and mobilized eight disaster specialists to assist with emergency relief, cash transfer programming, information management, recovery planning, and IT/telecoms, according to information on their website.

"Accessibility and transportation are challenging in Nepal in the best of times. Before the earthquake, many rural communities where the Nepal Red Cross worked were only accessible by foot," the American Red Cross explains. "The main international airport in Kathmandu is a very basic facility, and planes often have to wait long hours in queue to land. With the destruction, this situation is even more dire and getting supplies and transporting them within country is going to be a major challenge."

The American Red Cross is also providing remote mapping and information management support and helping separated families reconnect.

In addition, arrangements are being made to send supplies from warehouses in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, including nonfood products such as tarps, buckets, kitchen sets, and blankets.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations at


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