Dr. KC In Headlines Again

Narayan Upadhyay

The issue of medical studies and senior orthopaedics, Dr. Govinda KC, who has been waging a lone struggle, has hit headlines once again. The senior orthopaedics has currently been sitting on his fast-unto-death strike in Karnali demanding that the government-proposed National Medical Education Bill must not be endorsed by the federal parliament. On the other hand, the government is determined to see the bill through despite the ongoing protest from Dr. KC.
The controversial bill is reason that compelled Dr. KC to sit for the gruelling 15th round of hunger strike. Unlike past 14 rounds of hunger strikes which he had staged in the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, he opted to sit for his 15th round of strike in Karnali, apparently to bring into focus the poor state of health institutions and health services in the remote area of Karnali zone.

The intrepid doctor has declared that he would not end his hunger strike and would die until and unless the government listens to his demand of scrapping the present bill, which has, according to reports, contravened with the earlier Medical Education Bill. The past government had made a commitment with Dr. KC that it would table the Medical Education Bill through ordinance by incorporating the recommendations made by the Mathema Commission. The past government had kept its promises made to the protesting doctor.
However, the present bill appears to have struck out the Mathmema Commission recommendations. The recommendations of the Commission had mentioned that no medical college would be set up in the Kathmandu Valley for next ten years. The reason cited for barring anyone for opening the medical colleges in the capital valley is that there is already many medical colleges in Kathmandu and many of them are operated privately. The owners of these medical colleges are guided more by profiteering rather than providing quality medical education at an affordable fee. It has also been alleged that quality of education has also been compromised by the profit-seeking owners and proprietors of the medical colleges.
The Mathema Commission in its reports submitted in 2015 also recommended that instead of opening new medical colleges in Kathmandu, the government encourage the setting up of new colleges in the mofussil towns and villages where health services are still unavailable. Also included in the recommendations is the point that clearly mentions that to run a medical college, the same college must have a hospital that had provided health services at least for three years.
Whenever Dr. KC staged his hunger strike, he used to cite that owing to the proliferation of medical colleges and rise in fees for medical studies, the quality of health service in the nation has suffered a lot and health services to the poor have become inaccessible. Every year, plethora of medical students graduates by paying hefty medical fees for their study. These graduated doctors do not want to work in remote areas of the nation and are more likely to engage in the works at the Kathmandu based hospitals. Other key demands of Dr. KC which was also included in the Mathema Commission reports is that the government must operate medical colleges in the country and discourage private parties in operating these colleges. This will effectively make the medical study accessible to the poor and diligent students and also help provide quality health services to the poor people.
The demands of the Dr. KC are aimed at bringing overall reforms in the nation’s medical study sector, currently dominated by the privately owned medical colleges. Once these reforms are realized, then the people of Nepal would start receiving health services at affordable prices within the country.
Despite widespread support to the Dr. KC’s demands, why has successive governments in the country failed to address his demands? The reason is: many leaders and party supporters have already invested lots of funds in the setting up of the medical colleges in Kathmandu and the outside of the valley. The fulfillment of Dr. KC’s demands would see the investment from the leaders and party supporters going down the drain. It is said that the two of the medical colleges which are awaiting the government nod, the Man Mohan Memorial Medical College in Kathmandu and B & C in Jhapa, belonged to the Nepal Communist Party leader and supporter.
The present government appears to be under tremendous pressure to endorse the National Medical Education Bill which would pave the path for these two colleges operated smoothly. The ongoing hunger strike from Dr. KC, which has earned widespread support, has proved a stumbling stone for the government in endorsing the bill. Currently, the supporters of the ruling party and the Dr. KC are sharply divided and are engaged in rebuking each other over the bill.
The government, despite having a comfortable two-thirds majority in the parliament, has felt the pressure. If the ruling party parliamentarians endorse the controversial bill, the act would attract more criticism to the government due mainly to the popularity of the Dr. KC and due to his selfless act of bringing reforms in the medical studies for the larger good of the poor and diligent students and the people. On the other hand, the endorsement of the bill would only make the medical studies inaccessible to the diligent students who want to study medical education in affordable fees. The rich students with poor performance can easily get enrollment at the privately owned medical colleges set up at the capital, making overall health services sub-standard.
Before endorsing the controversial bill, the government must think twice about overlooking all of the recommendations of the Mathema Commission. Lately, the reputation and the popularity of the government have indeed received a battering. A cursory glance at the newspapers, online media and social networking sites suggests that the initial zeal of the government and ministers to take action against the erring and defaulting road contractors and transport syndication has not yet produced desired results.

The latest face-off between the government and protesting Dr. KC, whose health is now deteriorating, will only the government’s endeavour to restore its reputation and image. Instead of being apathetic to the protesting senior orthopaedic, the government must address KC’s demands which are purely aimed at reforming and curing the ailments of the nation’s health sector, especially the area of medical studies.

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