The “One Step Closer” series features high-impact non-governmental organizations and individuals, and innovative solutions bringing the world one step closer to cardiac surgery for all. Today’s post features Bhagwan Koirala, Nepalese paediatric cardiac surgeon that introduced all-Nepalese cardiac surgery in the country and free cardiac care for the young, the elderly, and the needy.
In 1997, the first open-heart surgery in Nepal by a full Nepalese team was done, led by Dr. Bhagwan Koirala. It was not much later that cardiac care in the country dramatically took off, with the establishment of the Shahid Gangalal National Heart Center (SGNHC), where Dr. Bhagwan Koirala was appointed as Chief Cardiac Surgeon and Executive Director, serving until 2009.In 2016, approximately 2,000 cardiac surgical cases were conducted in Nepal, a country of 29 million people, of which 1,400 were done in SGNHC.
“No child of this country shall die of heart disease because of poverty”
– Dr. Bhagwan Koirala
In 2003, Dr. Koirala started the “Poor Patients Relief” program in collaboration with the Nepalese government, providing free cardiac surgical care for poor children under 15, the elderly above 75, and the needy in Nepal, providing over 100 free valve replacements for poor patients every year.
“…we don’t turn away any patient for [technical] reasons. Also, we don’t refuse treatment to patients just because they don’t have money. We try to find resources for them.“
After his time at SGNHC, Dr. Koirala was Executive Director of the Tribhuvan University (TU) Teaching Hospital, a philanthropic institute where he initially started as a paediatric cardiac surgeon prior to moving to SGNHC. Today, Dr. Koirala remains head of the TU Manmohan Cardiothoracic Vascular and Transplant Center, famously known for providing medicines at lower prices than the suggested retail price. Dr. Koirala continues to practice and serve as professor at the Kathmandu Institute of Medicine, hoping to inspire future generations of Nepalese cardiac surgeons. In addition, Dr. Koirala currently heads the Kathmandu Insitute of Child Health (KIOCH), in an attempt to reduce the high (36 per 1,000 children) under-5 mortality present in the country, aiming for an ambitious 1 per 1,000 by 2030.