A tradition begins
A tradition begins

On Thursday 20 February, we remember the opening of the very first UMN hospital in Nepal, in a wing of the old Cholera Hospital in Teku. Later, this hospital work moved to Shanta Bhawan, and still later, to Patan Hospital.

Getting the hospital ready was no easy task, but Drs Bethel and Bob Fleming and their team took it on with gusto. Here’s how it happened…

The previous year’s [cholera] epidemic must have been pretty bad. The soiled leather mattresses were beyond recovery, so the Flemings took them out on the lawn and burned them, while a frantic policeman hopped up and down in agony because they were ‘destroying government property’. They sterilized the mental beds with a blowtorch; also sterilized was a wasp’s nest discovered under one of the beds just in time. Walls and floors were so filthy they had to be scraped clean. Miss Isla Knight, one of the Christian nurses, was down on her knees, trying not to vomit as she scrubbed.

“I hope you realize no one could pay me to do this!” she snapped to Dr Bethel. “I’m doing it of my own free will!”

The Prime Minister, MP Koirala, was kind enough to attend the opening of the new hospital. All was prepared in good time but, as is so often the case with important people, he was delayed. The Flemings were very anxious. But at last…

The welcome roar of official motorcycles, then a squealing of truck brakes sent the two Doctor Flemings hurrying to the door. A truckload of attendant soldiers had arrived and, yes, Bethel could see the official flags on the fenders – the big black car behind the soldiers was that of the Prime Minister!

“Thank you, Lord!” Bethel said silently, as Dr Bob rushed outside to greet His Excellency, for MP Koirala’s backing for their hospital was second only to that of Royalty.

Praise God for the tens of thousands of people who have been helped in UMN’s hospitals over the last 60 years!

Extracts from The Fabulous Flemings of Kathmandu, by Grace Nies Fletcher. 1964.

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