It seems that doctors working under the Ministry of Health are the most invisible, elusive and unaccounted for professionals. So much so that Minister for Health Gagan Thapa has talked about his disappointing inability to ascertain the exact number of the doctors working under the ministry. It sounds very baffling to everybody, more so to the minister who is working hard to bring desirable changes in health service for the past four months. Irregularities can take place more easily when system at work are blurred, unaccounted and left for whims and adhocism. The government’s health ministry seems to be long suffering from this malady. This ailment may not be incurable, but seems that it is certainly hard to treat as admitted by Health Minister Thapa. A thorough diagnosis is needed to detect the loopholes, lacunas and the virus of malpractices before the remedial doses are prescribed and rightly applied. That is what Minister Thapa seems to be doing, but with partial success so far. This is so because many components working in the health service sector are too sick to be brought back to full health as they are often not ready to swallow the bitter pills prescribed by the new executive at the top level. The sector is in need of a systemic overhaul to end the malpractices such as absence of medical professionals in their appointed duty stations.
We lack the divine ability to be omnipresent. In other words, we cannot be present at two or more places at the same time. Doctors too cannot. But some of them may be trying to be at two stations at the same time; at the government duty station as well as the place of his private practicing. When Minister Thapa was on an inspection tour of a health centre in eastern Nepal very recently, he was not able to find doctors attending their duty. Two doctors were supposed to man this health facility in Solukhumbu district, but both of them were absent. The tale of missing doctors is prevalent in government health facilities and widely more so in the rural areas. This happens because the doctors pretend to attend their duty stations without being present there. This is what was detected during the diagnostic tour of the health minister. When the doctors are absent, the role is often taken up by his subordinates, some of them completely lacking medical expertise. Fatal consequences of wrong medicines given to wrong patients and wrong manner of dosage are not uncommon. This is a symptom of a serious problem besetting the health sector which could be cured by putting in place an effective system that does not leave a room for malpractice and dereliction of duty.
Surya Nath Upadhyaya is a member of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) from Nepal’s side. The EPG has a two-year term, and it has already spent...