Nick Simons Block at Patan Hospital

Happening Issue 83 Jul, 2010
Text by Nandita Rana

Along line of hospital beds occupied nearly half the corridor space at the maternity
ward. Two ailing patients having to share a single bed, their anxious caretakers waiting for the doctor’s arrival and the constant movement of people in and out, filled an atmosphere of disarray. Hospital staff and patients lived through this nearly every day at Patan Hospital’s maternity ward.  That was ‘then’ and the ‘now’ is a different story. Thanks to Jim and Marilyn Simons, the over worked maternity unit of the hospital has now transformed into a multi-million state-of-the-art project. Founders of the Nick Simons Institute (NSI) in Nepal, a charity organization named after their late son, the Simons couple has been working to improve healthcare in rural areas of Nepal. NSI was established in March 2006.

The Nick Simons Institute is a commemoration of the late Nick Simons and his visions. Nick visited Nepal as a volunteer after graduating from college in 2002. He was impressed with the natural beauty of the country and trekked to several places as well. After serving in Nepal for a year he returned to New York to pursue his further education in medical science. Later, during a visit to Indonesia on holiday, the 25-year old Nick met an unfortunate accident, and his untimely death.

Nick’s parents, Dr Jim and Marilyn Simons, then visited Nepal in 2005 in order to establish a memorial for their son in the country that Nick was so fond of. After thorough research on various developmental projects the Simons decided to fund a new maternity wing to Patan Hospital’s already existent, but overcrowded maternity unit. It was Nick’s aspiration to help improve healthcare services in Nepal, which his parents continued for him. They wanted to do more to make a lasting difference in the area of rural health.  

The history of Patan Hospital dates back to 1956, then known as Shanta Bhawan Hospital. It was established by missionaries with the support of United Mission to Nepal (UMN). Later, in November 1982, Shanta Bhawan was joined by some staff from the Lalitpur District Hospital and moved into a new building at Lagankhel. Since then the institution has been providing health service facilities at the community level and is now regarded as one of the most highly reputed hospitals of Nepal.

Its maternity ward is also one of the most specialized,  with approximately 7,000 to 8,000 deliveries and 2,500 caesarian sections carried out annually. The increasing demand on the maternity unit was one of the challenges the hospital faced. The need for further assistance was obvious. It was the Simons’ couples’ decision to fund a new maternity wing that came as a wave of relief to the hospital management. The new construction has increased its capacity by 40 to 50 percent with better accommodation and quality upgrade.

It is said that patience is a virtue, for completion of the new project took six months longer than originally anticipated. The result, however, is a well-planned and executed undertaking, with new maternity program that is successful in balancing minute details with latest technologies, with the aim of delivering an appropriate atmosphere for both the staff and
patients. The ward has increased capacity of up to 163 beds. 

A new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) have been added, together with a special care nursery for vulnerable new-born babies.  With air conditionings to a comfortable waiting room and a staff-friendly approach, the design and architecture has been well conceptualized and prioritized on the basis of hygiene and comfort. A team of international and local architects including Oz Architecture of Denver, USA and John Sanday Associates Pvt Ltd of Kathmandu has given new dimensions to this section of the hospital.

“What makes the new construction more viable is because it is very energy efficient,” says Dr Kundu Yangzom, Chief of OBGYN (Obstetrics and Gynecology) Services at the hospital. It has provisions to utilize solar energy and has inbuilt central heating system. The incinerator is a new addition to the maternity wing. The equally modern and hygienic canteen, laundry, general stores and maintenance department have replaced the previous outmoded ones. “The increase in birthing center and Labor, Delivery and Recovery rooms (LDR) is an added advantage for us,” the doctor says.

The parking space has also been well considered, with underground parking capable of accommodating approximately 42 four-wheelers and numerous two-wheelers. The top most floor features a new library, auditorium, conference room and training facilities, and the previous maternity ward of the hospital has been remodeled expanded into medical and surgical wards. The new wing has been named the ‘Nick Simons Block’.

Despite added benefits, the core agenda of the hospital remains the same: service at the community level.  “Many people might be taken aback by the new building and its facilities. This, however, will not affect the hospital’s affordability,” says Dr Yangzom.  “As a pediatrician I am glad, I do not have to refer patients to other places or transfer them from hospital to hospital in such conditions. The lack of space and resources will not be a problem for us anymore.”

“We come for regular check-up at the hospital, and the transformation it has gone through is astounding. The new maternity ward is very convenient and of high standard,” says Sabita Ghimire, a regular visitor who had her delivery at the hospital a few months back. “Before, it was in a challenging state with comparatively less capacity than the number of patients admitted. I am glad that it’s upgraded.”

The Nick Simons Block (Mother and Child Service Center) was inaugurated by Hon. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on August 17 in presence of Dr Jim Simons and Dr Marilyn Simons. The Government of Nepal and Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City authorities have been equally co-operative on the project by exempting the project from VAT and reducing charges for the construction. One of the oldest and renowned hospitals of Nepal, the services of Patan Hospital have been highly gratified by the four million dollar project, providing new and improved environment for its medical services.

The once disarranged section of the hospital has now been transformed in to one of its best features. From its patient-friendly approach to the accessibility of resources, the new maternity wing of Patan Hospital is a great contribution to healthcare services in Nepal. The Nick Simons Block, in other words, commemorates Nick’s aspiration to contribute to the healthcare services and reminds us of his love of adventure and service.