KATHMANDU, Nov 16: At a time when many political leaders go abroad for medical treatment at huge expense to the government, some of them opt for treatment within Nepal. They have faith in the medical services that the ordinary people have been getting.
According to reliable sources, some Rs 72 million has been doled out to political leaders, influential personalities and bureaucrats in the last decade just for medical treatment.
Lawmaker Chitra Bahadur KC, 78, who is chairman of the Rastriya Janamorcha Party and a former deputy prime minister, suffers from multiple health issues such as high blood pressure and eye and stomach complaints. But he has never taken any money from the government for medical expenses.
KC, who spends some Rs 500 monthly to buy medicines, goes to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Bir Hospital and private hospitals for treatment. “I never like to go abroad for treatment and will never take a single penny from the government,” he said.
“The people in the villages do not even get a Paracetamol but political leaders who have grown rich are still gobbling up state resources for medical treatment.”
Narayan Man Bijukchhe, lawmaker and chairman of Nepal Workers Peasants Party, never goes abroad or sends members of his family abroad for treatment. “I never like to go to foreign hospitals. The doctors and hospitals here in this country are good enough,” said the 77-year-old. “I go to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Bir and the local community hospital in Bhaktapur.”
“The government should provide funds to those who can't pay for their own treatment.
However, political leaders who are millionaires have also taken money from the government for medical expenses,” he said. “That money could be used to set up a good hospital here.”
Bijukchhe suffers from high blood pressure, minor oral sores and pain in the knee. “I need Rs. 1,000 to 2,000 per month for medicines and treatment,” he said.
CPN-UML leader Raghuji Pant said the late former prime minister Man Mohan Adhikari never went to foreign hospitals. “He also never encouraged anybody to misuse state funds,” Pant said. “He always sought treatment within the country.”
Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, who is ex-commander of the Maoist combatants, was admitted to Shree Birendra Military Hospital at Chhauni in February after he complained of accelerated heart beat while in Sindhuli to inaugurate a function. He was flown to the capital in an army helicopter.
Former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat also said that he has not claimed any money from the government for medical expenses. “When I was in the US to take part in the annual meeting of the World Bank, I had to go for a health checkup after I suddenly developed a condition. The Nepal embassy paid a hospital bill amounting to some Rs. 0.28 million,” he said. “I frequently go to hospitals such as Dhulikhel, Garnde International and Norvic and I bear all the costs myself.”
The Ministry of Health (MoH) provides a grant to government hospitals for the upkeep of their VVIP and VIP cabins.This came about following severe criticism by the general public and the mass media when senior politicians kept going abroad at government expense for medical care. Bir Hospital renovated its VVIP cabin at a cost of around Rs 3 million in the last two years.
However, hardly any VVIP has gone to Bir Hospital for treatment since the restoration of democracy in 1991. “Only five VIPs including CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal came here for treatment in the last fiscal year,” said Dr Bhupendra Basnet, director at Bir. “We are surprised that they do not like to come here although we have sophisticated equipment and modern facilities.”
The hospital has locked up a renovated cabin in which even members of the royal family used to receive treatment in the past. The sophisticated equipment in the cabin has been gathering dust for years now.
Similarly, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) has a deluxe cabin for VVIPS, which was arranged at the special request of the government. But no VVIP has used the cabin.