All Eyes On Gagan Thapa Fixing Health Sector Challenging
All eyes are focused on Gagan Thapa, Health Minister in the coalition cabinet led by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. He is expected to be a star performer in this cabinet, particularly because of his youthful charm, charisma and accomplishment both as a leader and parliamentarian. Gagan Thapa is one of the few young leaders in the country who inspires hope and enthusiasm in the people. In case he fails to deliver and accomplish up to expectations, it will not be his failure alone but the falter of the contemporary young generation of leaders who garner and compose some trust of the people.
Calculating the situation
It is often the case that a leader when he or she takes the responsibility in the executive position, he or she is found to be failing to satisfy the high expectations of the people or his or her adherents. The poor performance when in power is destined to lose charm and trust that he or she had earned while staying outside the corridor of power. The surging popularity dips surprisingly, never to rise again. The leaders who hold out political promise for the future should therefore think seriously and calculate the situation before taking the reins of the power.
Take the case of Narhari Acharya--the erudite NC leader who has been ailing now. He had remained a highly respected NC leader who commanded support from across the political divide in the society. But when he assumed the role of Law and Justice Minister in the cabinet headed by late Shushil Koirala, he was confronted with controversies especially regarding appointment of justices in the apex court. No one doubts his integrity and impeccability but his clear sense of judgment was reportedly clouded by the advice he got from the colleagues he had trusted. Today many in his constituency say that he is no more popular as he used to when he won the election twice from the very prestigious Kathmandu constituency where he had competed against the CPN (UML) party general secretary Ishwor Pokhrel.
The Health Ministry is, therefore, both an opportunity and challenge to Gagan Thapa. This Ministry is supposed to make the health services effective to the ordinary people in the country. In fact, hospitals and health centres across the country are in shambles. The patients, who arrive in the hospitals and health posts for services, have to face not only hassles but are made in some cases to pay fees even for the basic services that are expected to be free. The doctors and nursing staff assigned and posted for the public hospitals are found not attending to their duties on a regular basis. What is more dismaying is that the basic diagnostic equipments and appliances like X-ray have been allowed to go dysfunctional rendering the hospital assets non-performing and their services go almost bust. The medicines supposed to be distributed to the common people for free in line with free health services policy of the government have been allegedly swindled and sold out through private medical outlets.
Not only the district and zonal hospitals, health centres and health posts but also the national level public hospitals like the Bir Hospital, Teaching Hospital and the Chitwan Cancer Hospital have not been doing well. The services in the Bir Hospital and Chitwan Cancer Hospital have come under sharper public scrutiny. The nefarious nexus of the physicians working for the BP Koirala Chitwan Cancer Hospital and private pathological labs and clinics is said to be affecting the process and outcome of service delivery.
Despite much hue and cry over the poor state of service delivery at the Bir Hospital, it has not improved at all. Minister Thapa has visited the hospital and saw the sordid state of the affairs. Political meddling in the appointment of the doctors and executives in the Bir Hospital together with the discriminations and partiality in the provisions and allocation of services have been central to the deterioration in the management of the nation’s oldest and premier hospital.
At the broader national level too, there has been the long unresolved dispute on the modality, character and management of medical education. The entire medical personnel and doctors are split on several issues including the mode of medical education in the country. The Mathema panel report that has emphasised curbing the alleged unscrupulous practices entrenched in the field of medical education stoked the fire of controversies throwing the government in the quagmire of dilemma. The controversies have entered the national parliament as well. Those lawmakers who have personal stake on the lucre and lures of the medical education have stood on the need to permit and create an enabling environment for the expansion of the private medical colleges while others have argued for regulating it fairly to ensure its quality and development.
Dr Gobinda KC’s hunger strikes resorted to time and again have shaken not only the conscience of the medical fraternity but also the entire nation underlining the need for proper regulation and management of the medical education in the country.
The uglier face of the medical community came to the fore almost six months ago especially following the arrests of the medical doctors from various parts of the country. It is alleged that the majority of the arrestees had possessed fake SLC and higher secondary level certificates. The disclosure that the doctors who are well placed and respected in the society for their services and contribution have been involved in such grossly unethical and abhorrent practices is something to be worried over. If those who are trusted as the saviour of the life of the people are themselves found indulging in the abominable practices there cannot be other criminal breach of ethics than this. The examples and cases mentioned above are some of the samples of the problems faced by the health sector in the country. Minister Gagan Thapa has to tackle these challenges and come very clean and effective when he quits the very challenging role of the minister. Sometimes despite good intention power tends to make the political leader its casualty. Let us pray that Gagan Thapa avoids becoming one of these through very intelligent moves and steps.