Australian therapists take a hands-on journey to Bhutan
THE expression ‘‘to lend a hand’’ is familiar to most people but we had a chance recently to provide help in a specific hands-on way in Bhutan.
Tourism is limited in this beautiful Himalayan kingdom to ensure the fragile environment remains unspoiled. Our visit was not as tourists — one of us is a physiotherapist, the other an occupational therapist — but as volunteers providing professional care for hands, which are every person’s most essential tools.
In Bhutan, as in too many other developing countries, the medical treatment and rehabilitation of hand injuries and disorders are often overlooked because of a lack of expertise. Typical injuries include fractures, amputations, tendon damage, deformities and, particularly, burns as the rural Bhutanese generally cook food over wood fires.
On this most recent trip ( Suzanne’s third), we gave our time and skills as upper-limb therapists to prepare and deliver an education and training program for local medical staff and to treat patients at hospitals in Thimphu, the capital, and Punakha in central Bhutan.
We conducted two-day courses on the conservative management of upper-limb injuries and also
their taught therapists how to use two electric sewing machines (for the fabrication of neoprene splints) that had generously been donated to us ahead of our visit.
Our courses were an overwhelming success, with 69 attendees, including the country’s four orthopedic surgeons; all the participants passed.
Before our visit we had forwarded 18 boxes of donated handtherapy equipment, such as splinting materials, prefabricated splints, exercise aids and reference books, and these materials are now being put to good use in district hospitals throughout Bhutan.
The success of this latest visit was capped by an invitation to meet senior health officials from the Bhutanese government to establish a memorandum of understanding. We expect to formalise the agreement this year, which will provide a supportive framework for the further development of the project. Weare very much looking forward to our visits in 2013 and 2014.