It is with great sadness that I have to report the forced closure, with immediate effect, of the International Porters Protection Group rescue posts in the villages of Machermo and Gokyo, Nepal.
For the last 17 years the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG) and Community Action Nepal (CAN), and in recent years with the support of the Mountain Medicine Society of Nepal (MMSN), have quietly and efficiently been operating a porter shelter and rescue post in the village of Machermo at 4450m above sea level. During the last decade they have been operating a similar facility in the neighbouring village of Gokyo at 4800m. Some of you will know the area well having worked for IPPG as volunteers.
In October of last year, without warning, a small private clinic in Kathmandu opened a satellite clinic in one of the lodges in the centre of Gokyo. Last season the clinic was staffed by a doctor qualified for less than one year and with no experience of altitude or travel medicine. He attended IPPG’s altitude talk for lay people and said that he learned a great deal! The business model for the new clinic would appear to be to evacuate as many trekkers as possible to Kathmandu where it is alleged they are often subjected to excessive or fictitious investigations and treatment. Those trekkers not evacuated are frequently subjected to excessive and sometimes dangerous over treatment and polypharmacy. Last season’s volunteer doctors for IPPG had the impression that up to 50% of patients seen at the new clinic were evacuated by helicopter compared to IPPG’s rate of around 5% and then only the most seriously ill. The helicopter company used for the majority of the evacuations from the new clinic is owned by a major shareholder in the Kathmandu clinic.