KATHMANDU, Jan 3: A meeting of the Education and Health Sub-Committee of parliament to hold clause-wise discussions on the amendment proposal for the Medical Education Bill failed to make any headway on Wednesday also, with lawmakers sharply divided over a number of issues.
The lawmakers were at odds over granting affiliation to private medical colleges outside Kathmandu Valley, phasing out intermediate level health-related programs from the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), the period scholarship doctors have to serve in rural areas, and over provisions for inclusive scholarship schemes.
Lawmakers from the opposition Nepali Congress insisted that the agreements reached with Dr Govinda KC were included without any alteration in the Medical Education Bill. “Our stance is to implement the agreement signed with Dr KC and bring the Medical Education Act,” said former health minister Gagan Kumar Thapa, who is also a member of the parliamentary panel.
Under the agreement reached with Dr KC, no private medical college will be permitted to open in Kathmandu Valley for 10 years, one university cannot grant affiliation to more than five medical colleges and at least one government medical college should be opened in each of the seven provinces.
“As far as opening new medical colleges outside Kathmandu Valley is concerned, Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University have already exceeded their affiliation quotas,” said Thapa. “The state-owned Purbanchal University can issue affiliation after first running its medical college with Koshi Zonal Hospital as a teaching hospital,” he said. “The intermediate level under CTEVT should be either phased out or upgraded as per the agreement,” he added. “Other issues can be resolved through dialogue.”
Lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai insisted on allowing the provinces to deal with the CTEVT issue as per their needs rather than deciding on a phase-out. “We should not close the door to opening private medical colleges outside the Valley,” he added.
Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel said that they should seek a way out for opening private medical colleges outside the Valley. “A university can be allowed to issue more than five affiliations to private medical colleges outside the Valley,” he said while showing flexibility over CTEVT. “CTEVT intermediate level manpower and programs can be upgraded.”
The parliamentary sub-committee has been discussing the same issues for over two months now. However, according to observers, they are yet to reach any conclusion because of the ‘vested interests’ of the ruling party in commercializing the medical education sector.
Jaya Puri Gharti, coordinator of the Education and Health Committee of parliament, said the sub-committee has been delayed unnecessarily. “I urge lawmakers of the sub-committee to finalize their discussions and submit the report within two days,” she said. “We will then table it in parliament,” she added, urging Dr KC to put off his 16th hunger strike for a few days.
Dr KC has already gone to Ilam in eastern Nepal to begin the 16th hunger strike as the government has not implemented the nine-point agreement signed with him on July 26, 2018.
The agreement includes bringing the Medical Education Act, taking action against 43 officials for their involvement in irregularities while issuing affiliation to private medical colleges, and opening government medical colleges in all the provinces.