A HEREFORDSHIRE GP has been evacuated from a hospital in Nepal after forest fires threatened the building.

Dr Crispin Fisher, GP at Ryeland Surgery in Leominster, recently headed to Nepal with a group from The Leprosy Mission (TLM), visiting a hospital and projects supported by TLM in that country.

But events took an unexpected turn during their visit to Anandaban Hospital, the leading centre for the treatment of leprosy in Nepal and the site of an internationally renowned research institute for leprosy.

The hospital is outside Kathmandu, on a hillside surrounded by beautiful forest. On April 29, forest fires were reported a few miles from the hospital but were not thought a threat, and the first the TLM group knew of it was when they were offered a security escort in the evening, in case tigers were driven out of the forest by the fires.

But the next day the situation was more grave, the fire having changed direction to approach the hospital.

Hereford Times: The visitors got to work cleaning down a ward to accommodate the patients evacuated because of the fireThe visitors got to work cleaning down a ward to accommodate the patients evacuated because of the fire (Image: Dr Crispin Fisher)

Staff and managers were seriously concerned, and the decision was made to move all the leprosy patients from their ward block, which is closest to the forest, to old disused wards further down the hillside.

Dr Fisher said the visitors offered any assistance they could and were asked to clean the disused wards as quickly as possible. Within minutes of doing so, the patients arrived to settle on the old metal beds or the floor.

As the situation worsened the hospital managers decided to evacuate the UK visitors, for their own safety, and vehicles transferred the team to a hotel in central Kathmandu.

As they left the compound, fires were raging within yards of the only exit road. Firefighters and the army spent the next twelve hours fighting the blaze and used water and controlled counterfires to protect the site.


Dr Fisher said many at the hospital had described it as a "genuine miracle" that the hospital was spared, the fire having travelled down the hillside within a few feet of the complex.

While leprosy has not been seen in the UK for many decades, Dr Fisher said, there are still around 200,000 cases diagnosed worldwide each year.

"It still carries huge stigma and treatment involves much more than just the antibiotics for the infection," he said.

"Many patients need treatment for ulcers and deformities, all of which could be prevented by early treatment, and many need social and financial support to rebuild their lives when rejected by their families and communities.

It is a huge privilege to support their work and to see it in person in Nepal. To see the love and care given to the patients and to meet the doctors and scientists involved in crucial research about the disease has been inspirational."