Malumghat Hospital Project – Bangladesh
Malumghat Hospital Project, also known as Memorial Christian Hospital, includes a sixty-five bed hospital founded in 1966 by legendary surgeon Viggo Olsen. Today MCH offers general medical, surgical and obstetrical care, and a newborn nursery. The site also boasts strong departments in physiotherapy, prosthetics, community health, and the Memorial Christian College of Health Sciences, which prepares national healthcare providers.
MCH regularly receives healthcare profession students and resident physicians from North America in an environment where the staff is strongly committed to teaching. A typical day includes hospital rounds, a tea break, and scheduled surgeries and procedures. Translation is available for non-English speaking patients. Weekend travel options include Cox’s Bazar – the world’s longest natural sea beach.
Location & Community
Bangladesh is a beautiful, sub-tropical country crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers and dotted with thousands of small ponds. This nation sits on the great river deltas that join here and flow south to the Bay of Bengal. India wraps a giant arm around most of Bangladesh, and Myanmar lies to the southeast. Malumghat Hospital Project is located in the village of Malumghat, near the city of Chittagong southeast of the capital city of Dacca (Dhaka).
From March to October the climate is hot and humid. The monsoon rains begin in June and last until October. The heavy rainfall often causes catastrophic floods and storms, while the winter season, November through February, has very little rain; the weather is usually cool and pleasant.
Formerly called East Pakistan, Bangladesh was born out of blood and ashes of the War for Independence in 1971. The new leaders adopted a parliamentary form of government, which is striving to correct the problems of overpopulation, hunger, poverty, disease, unemployment, illiteracy and devastating floods. With a population of over 162 million people, Bangladesh continues to be one of the world’s poorest countries.
Visitors may enter Bangladesh by either flying into the city of Chittagong or flying into Dacca and then connecting to Chittagong. The Malumghat Hospital Project has an associated guesthouse at both locations. When possible, a direct flight to Chittagong is preferable. A representative will meet arriving visitors at Chittagong and arrange for the two-to-three hour drive to the village of Malumghat.
For current information, one should visit the embassy website appropriate for one’s country. A tourist visa should be requested. United States residents may visit the Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington, DC.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
Malaria prophylaxis is generally recommended. One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information.
The heart of Bangladesh is in its 68,000 rural villages, few of which have plumbing or electricity. Most Bangladeshis are poor farmers who struggle to feed themselves and their families. Most manual laborers work for less than US $1.50 a day. Although the lifestyle is quite simple, general living conditions have improved somewhat with the advent of electricity, radio, television, cell phones, Internet, and improved farming methods.
Bangladesh lacks sufficient hospitals and health facilities for its growing population. Though Bangladesh has made impressive progress in basic childhood immunization, leprosy control, family planning, and promotion of tube wells for drinking water, more health education and medical services are needed. Much illness and death is due to malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of obstetrics services, high rates of tobacco use, and road traffic injuries. Malaria-spreading mosquitoes thrive in the wet climate and kill many Bangladeshis each year. Pneumonia, diarrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, and parasites continue to be common while diabetes, heart disease, and strokes are increasing rapidly.
Bangla, also known as Bengali, is the official language of Bangladesh. It is a member of the Indo-Aryan languages, is derived from Sanskrit, and hence appears to be similar to Hindi. English is spoken by officials and higher educated persons. Translation is readily available at Malumghat Hospital Project.
Medical Care Services
Malumghat Hospital Project’s best-known component is Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH). This sixty-five bed hospital was founded in 1966 via a team lead by legendary surgeon Viggo Olsen. Today MCH offers general medical, surgical and obstetrical care. Its services include a fully equipped x-ray department, laboratory, outpatient department, physiotherapy and brace and limb departments, pharmacy, labor and delivery, newborn care nursery, OB fistula repair, male and female wards, and two surgical theaters. During one recent six-month period, the staff at MCH treated 33,021 outpatients and 3,327 inpatients, delivered 691 babies, performed 231 C-sections and 1,136 additional surgeries. Logistic support for Malumghat Hospital Project is provided by the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism.
In 1979, the Hospital Orthopedic Patient Enablement (HOPE) fund was established to help patients who needed extensive care due to wounds received in the war. At the same time, the hospital began to manufacture artificial limbs for the many amputees. The Limb and Brace department of MCH continues to provide the Jaipur Foot for amputees. Prostheses and braces are constructed on site, along with ambulatory aids for rehabilitation. Physical rehabilitation camps are regularly held in villages of Cox’s Bazaar District, providing prostheses and training for amputees who are unable to visit the hospital site.
The Memorial Christian College of Health Sciences (MCCHS) was established in 2003 to prepare national healthcare professionals. Presently MCCHS offers a three-year program, training students as paramedics, surgical technicians, nurse aids, electro-medical technicians, laboratory technicians, and community health workers. Students practice skills under professional supervision at MCH.
Public Health Initiatives
Along with tertiary care, the Malumghat Hospital Project emphasizes community health, essential obstetric care, essential newborn care, immunization, health education, and training of primary care providers. This is accomplished via permanent village clinics and mobile clinics, midwifery seminars, and preventative health seminars. Printed materials are offered and health videos are shown to in the communities on topics including nutrition, safety, and prenatal care.
Of particular importance, Malumghat Hospital Project holds obstetrics seminars for midwives and community health workers. Since only eighteen percent of deliveries in Bangladesh are done in hospitals, midwives serve a crucial role. Education for the midwives is minimal, and community health teaching from MCH has made a significant impact in improving quality of care.
Healthcare Profession Staff
The staff of MCH include American physicians Heather Fowler (family medicine), Steve Kelly (thoracic surgery), Frank Weirman (family medicine), Jay Linthcfiled (infectious diseases), and at least one Bengali physician. Nurse practitioners from the United States are on staff as well.
MCH regularly receives healthcare profession students and resident physicians in an environment where the staff are strongly committed to teaching. A typical day begins with breakfast at 7AM, followed by hospital patient rounds until about 10AM. A tea break is on the daily schedule from 10-10:30, followed by outpatient care from 10:30-12:30. After lunch are scheduled surgeries and procedures. All patients with laboratory tests ordered earlier in the day are re-seen with their results between 2:30-4:30.
Student Lodging & Meals
A guesthouse is located on site, complete with air conditioning, running water, and electricity. Housekeeping is provided, and meals are prepared for students and visitors.
The guesthouse has wireless Internet access. One can easily purchase a mobile phone as desired.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to financially support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they provide opportunity for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
Cox’s Bazar is located nearby. This fishing port is known for its wide, sandy beach – believed to be the world’s longest natural sea beach. A safari park and restaurants are in proximity.
Behavior & Dress
Some behaviors to avoid include giving a thumbs-up sign, showing the sole of one’s foot, and any contact between opposite genders. Dress for women should be modest. A long sleeve top and baggy pants are worn most commonly and can be purchased in Bangladesh. Men do not wear ties, jackets, or white coat due to the heat. Polo shirts and long pants are most acceptable, as are surgical scrubs. Short pants are only worn for sports.
What To Pack
Visitors should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. It is recommended to also pack a carry-on bag that has essential items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Bring clothes appropriate for the weather. A laptop computer is very handy for personal communication.