Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
A couple of months ago, a student from one of the schools in Phuentsholing had sustained a minor foot injury. The Phuentsholing General Hospital (PGH) treated her and doctors advised her to rest.
However, the teenager removed the plaster in two days and went to the local healer at Nishiganj, Cooch Behar, about 76km away from Phuentsholing.
She returned to PGH with severe complications on her foot. Her skin was rotting, doctors observed.
A surgeon at PGH, Dr Pema Lethro said the girl would have needed an amputation had she been late.
“The local healers had applied a very tight bandage, which was not opened for weeks,” he said, adding that her wound had swollen and filled with puss. “Her foot was fully infected.”
The doctors then conducted a series of antibiotic procedures. A surgery was also done.
Such issues of complications after getting treatment from local healers are increasing over the years and remains a challenge, Dr Pema Lethro said.
Yesterday, a patient reported to Samtse hospital after getting treated from the Nishiganj healing centre. Despite visiting the hospital, he had opted to visit the Nishiganj centre.
Dr Pema Lethro said that Samtse hospital had consulted him on the case. It is likely that the patient’s ankle would need a procedure called “ankle fusion.”
The Nishiganj local healing establishment is quite common among Bhutanese. Hundreds of people from across the country travel to Nishiganj and stay there for months to get local treatment for fractures and muscle problems. There are both positive and negative feedback.
However, Dr Pema Lethro said many complication cases were coming from Nishiganj.
If the fractures are not complicated, there are possibilities that the local procedures would heal, the doctor explained. “But complicated fractures would not,” he said. “People still opt Nishiganj over free services in our hospitals.”
Prior to surgeries, Dr Pema Lethro said they always explain the patients about the situation—the surgery risks, expected outcomes and failures, including the risks of going to local healers. The risks of not operating are also clarified to the patients.
The doctor said most of the patients refuse surgery, especially, when there is requirement to plant metals inside. “The older ones from the rural places refuse the most,” he said, adding the hospital refrain from forcing surgeries.
About a month and a half ago, a 37-year-old woman, a civil servant, had also come to PGH with complications. She had stayed in Nishiganj for three months and returned when there was no improvement. The woman had refused a surgery in Mongar hospital.
Dr Lethro said that her arm was broken. “We told her a surgery was needed but she refused and went back to Nishiganj,” he said.
Nishiganj healing firm had told her that her arm had improved. An X-Ray report indicating the improvement was also provided. However, her arm had not improved.
Not being able to bear the pain, the woman returned to PGH. It was then found that the fracture had not healed and the condition had worsened. “We found the X-Ray she was given was not hers,” Dr Pema Lethro said.
In another case, a 43-year-old man recently visited PGH after staying for five months at the healing centre. He had a problem in his hip. A simple surgery could have worked if he had come to the hospital before, doctors said. If the complication doesn’t improve, the man would have to go under the knife for a hip joint replacement.
Meanwhile, Dr Pema Lethro said he is planning a study to see why people are visiting the Nishiganj centre.
Hospital treatments have back ups and follow ups, Dr Pema Lethro said, explaining there is another treatment in line, including referrals, even if there is no progress.
A resident in Phuentsholing said Nishiganj local healing centre is renowned for healing fractures. “I took both my mother and grandmother and they were healed,” he said.
Another resident said that the treatment from Nishinganj has healed many people.
“I have heard many stories of complicated fractures being cured,” he said.
Nishiganj healing uses a special kind of paste, which is applied on the fracture. It is done after identifying the fractures from X-Ray reports. After the paste is applied, it is plastered with bamboo sticks.
“It is a form of Ayurveda,” he said.