A Hospital for the Needy
By Bill Breedlove
Executive Director, HDF
the tent that
was the field hospital
The Bugna Villages Complex sits high
up on the mountainside, clinging to
the mountain as if for its very life.
Even before the earthquake, this area
was desolate and the people had a
hard life. The nearest city of any
size is Muzzafarabad, which is about
30km from Bugna. It is also where
the nearest hospital is located.
When the earthquake occurred, of
course the first order of business
was to tend to the many gravely injured
people. Since many of those injured
were children who had been in schools
that had collapsed, we at the HDF
needed to set up something quickly
to tend to those children.
At our base camp in Bugna, we set
up a “field hospital”
that was a giant tent in which we
had created several “wards.”
There was one for men and one for
women, as well as other “rooms,”
a dispensary, etc. It was functional,
and it was able to serve the purpose
of meeting people’s immediate
Gradually, though, after the initial
effects of the earthquake and the
injuries associated with it—cuts,
scrapes, broken bones—that we
expected to see had worn off, we noticed
that people were still coming to the
“clinic” in large numbers.
We couldn’t figure out how so
many people would still be coming
to a field hospital.
Then we noticed what TYPES of treatments
people were requesting: medicines
for infections (antibiotics), help
with digestive ailments, and even
vaccinations for the children. It
was then we realized that our little
“clinic” was actually
the only real option for any type
of healthcare at all for these people!
the clinic is
up, with the four “wards”
Prior to the earthquake, if the people
of Bugna wanted to visit a medical
center, they had to travel to Muzzafarabad.
After the earthquake, travel was either
impossible or extremely difficult,
plus the fact that the facilities
in Muzzafarabad were either damaged
by the earthquake or swamped by all
the injured there.
So, the field hospital HDF had created
to tend to those injured in the earthquake
had become the primary source of healthcare
for all those individuals and their
families. We had only envisioned the
“hospital” as a temporary
solution to providing emergency services.
However, we soon realized that if
the hospital were to close, the people
of Bugna would have nothing.
But, the “hospital” was
really just a large tent, not suitable
for the winter. What could be done
to make a more permanent arrangement?
Once again, I am proud to say, HDF
was ready for the challenge. We had
already been working with organizations
such as Alaska Structures and the
Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle
on building semipermanent structures
When we all got together and considered
the problem posed by the field hospital,
we quickly realized there was only
one solution: build a more permanent
inside the main
And so we did.
The first order of business was to
construct a giant shelter that would
serve as the “main” clinic.
We also knew, however, that we would
need separate “wards”
for male patients, female patients,
the pharmacy, etc. We also constructed
four “wards” that could
meet those needs.
At first, people were very hesitant
when they saw the big tent coming
down. With all the help we received,
it only took one day to build the
“clinic” and the four
“wards.” At the same time,
there was a group of doctors visiting
from the United States. They had planned
to visit various earthquake areas
to provide service to the injured.
We all wondered what people would
think of the new facility.
The first day the structure was up,
I had to leave the base camp early
to go up into the more remote regions
of the mountain, where homes were
being constructed for people who had
lost theirs in the earthquake. It
was after 9am, and the “hospital”
was deserted. Would there be no patients?
Had the people of Bugna given up?
Those thoughts were on my mind all
day while I was up the mountain. Later
in the afternoon, I had a chance to
get back to the base camp, and, curious,
I went to the site of the hospital
to see what—if anything—was
I was amazed.
There were lines of people snaking
all around, waiting for treatment.
Families had brought their children
in for checkups, or their more elderly
members in for some specific service.
A line of elementary children waited
patiently for inoculations.
It was amazing!
A popular place!
And, the need was so great, people
kept coming. The visiting doctors
had planned to only spend a short
time in Bugna and then travel to other
areas. However, once they saw all
of the people waiting to be treated,
they said they felt their place was
right there, and so they stayed.
The field hospital had become the
example of a “success story”
that HDF was able to bring to people.
Date/Time Last Modified: 12/20/2005 12:22:42 PM
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