MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Nick had intended to dedicate himself to improving healthcare in Nepal, which is why his parents wanted to continue this ambition.
Jim and Marilyn wanted to do something more for Nepal that would make a real long-term difference in rural health. They set up the Nick Simons Institute (NSI) which has been working for the past three years to select and train health personnel who are most likely to remain in the villages and not migrate to the cities once they learn the skills.
And it was while touring Patan Hospital in 2005 that the Simons were astonished by the sight of the overcrowded and chaotic maternity ward. They subsequently decided to fund a new $4 million maternity wing for the hospital.
"With the help of NSI we are able to build a more efficient and better equipped ward with improved services," says Rajesh N Gongal of Patan Hospital. The hospital presently carries out 7,000 deliveries and 2,500 Caesarean sections a year, and the new ward will help improve the quality of the services provided.
Although Lalitpur is adjacent to the capital, there are outlying VDCs in the south of the district where the maternal and child mortality levels are nearly as high as remote northwestern Nepal.
Patan Hospital was started in the 1950s by Chirstian missionaries, and used to be located in Shanta Bhaban in Jhamsikhel. After it moved to Lagankhel it turned its focus to community health care.
Demand far outstrips the provision of decent maternity services in Nepal, and there is a particular shortage of facilities that can provide neonatal and paediatric critical care. The new ward, with about 150 beds, will help meet this demand, boosting the hospital's total capacity to about 450 beds.
The new ward will have a special care nursery to provide better treatment for vulnerable new-borns, and there will also be two new operating theatres and an energy-efficient heating system. The new complex also has a top floor to be used as an academic centre.
The new wing will be inaugurated on 17 August by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Simons will be here for the occasion, and the ward is expected to be fully functional in two months.