Govt tightens state largesse for VIP medical care

Published On: December 24, 2016 12:50 AM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

Who can receive treatment funds
Ø    Former president, vice president, PM, speaker, chief justice, deputy speaker will get up to Rs 1.5 million. 
Ø    Former deputy PM, minister, state minister, assistant minister, lawmakers, chiefs and members of constitutional bodies will get up to Rs 1 million.
Ø    Individuals who have contributed significantly to art, literature, music, politics, public administration and persons of importance in the society and nation will be given up to Rs 700,000.
Ø    Up to Rs 500,000 is proposed for medical treatment of the needy and people from disadvantaged groups. Currently, the government provides Rs 100,000 to such people.

How to avail of the facility
Ø    Apply to Ministry of Health
Ø    Apply with doctor's prescription and copy of citizenship for treatment  within the country.
Ø    For treatment abroad, present recommendation by Nepal Medical Board and doctor's referral mentioning unavailability of treatment within the country . 
Ø    If the candidate is eligible for the facility as per his/her office, the process will be forwarded.
Ø    No one will get dual facilities from the state. A dual facility, where found, will be recovered from the candidate.

KATHMANDU, Dec 24: Tightening up state largesse for the treatment of ailing VVIPs, VIPs, political leaders and high-ranking officials, the government has approved directives limiting the treatment support  to Rs 1.5 million, and to once in a lifetime.

According to reliable sources, some Rs 72 million has been doled out to political leaders, influential personalities and bureaucrats in the last decade. A report obtained by Republica shows that politicians, including former prime ministers and the former president, received a total of Rs 71.17 million from state coffers for medical treatment abroad, on the basis of cabinet decisions. In the last fiscal year alone, 3,300 persons close to the political leadership got hold of millions from state coffers.

There were no limitations to the state funds provided to high-profile personalities in the past. However, the new directives approved Friday by the cabinet's bills committee caps treatment costs at Rs 1.5 million for national figures in cases related to heart, kidney, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer, spinal and head injury, liver, aplastic anemia, thalassemia, brain stroke and sickle cell anemia, among others. If they cannot afford the treatment at home or abroad, the government will pay the costs, according to the directives.

A seven-member committee chaired by the secretary at the Ministry of Health (MoH) will be formed to recommend the treatment facility. The committee, which holds monthly meetings, includes as members the director general of the Department of Health Services (DoHS), the chief of the Medical Service Division at MoH, a joint-secretary from the Ministry of Finance, a joint-secretary from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the chairperson of Nepal Medical Board and the director of management division at DoHS.

The support for treatment at home or abroad should be approved beforehand by the government. Fifty percent of the cost for treatment abroad will be provided as an advance and the beneficiary should submit the treatment details afterwards. If all details are not submitted, the advance will be withdrawn. If the patient is unable to apply in person for the treatment support, close relatives can do it for him or her.

Proposals for treatment support need to be submitted to the cabinet through MoH after securing permission from the Ministry of Finance. If the patient has health insurance, this will be deducted from the amount provided for treatment.

If the patient is treated in domestic hospitals, the treatment cost will be paid to the hospital. Transparency of treatment costs should be maintained and these will be formally audited. An electronic network will be set up for integrated information.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa said that the directives would be  implemented immediately. “Treatment support proposed for the disadvantaged and needy people will be approved speedily by the Ministry of Finance,” he said. “Incumbent VVIPs, VIPs and other dignitaries will get the facility as per the existing rules.”

 Government hospitals maintain separate lounges for providing treatment to VVIPs and VIPs, and MoH has provided a grant to the hospitals to renovate the cabins following severe criticism from the general public and the media over senior politicians seeking checkups abroad at government expense.  Bir Hospital renovated its VVIP cabin at a cost of around Rs 3 million in the last two years. 

The hospital has locked up the renovated cabin in which even royalty used to receive treatment in the past. Then queen Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah received treatment at Bir Hospital in 1970, King Mahendra in 1971 and Crown Prince Dipendra in 1985. The fully equipped cabin has been gathering dust for years now.

No VVIP  has gone to Bir for treatment since the restoration of democracy in 1991. 

Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital has also set up a deluxe cabin for VVIPS at the special request of the government. But no VVIP has ever used it.

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