Sita Dahal (center), wife of NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, is helped by her daughter-in-law Bina Magar (left) and an unidentified woman at Tribhuvan International Airport on Sunday. Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sita along with their daughter Ganga and son-in-law left for the US on Sunday for Sita's treatment. Sita is suffering from Parkinson’s and other ailments. Photo: Keshab Thoker/Rrepublica
KATHMANDU, March 18: Ruling Nepal Communist Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, his wife Sita along with their daughter Ganga and son-in-law left for the USA on Sunday evening for Sita’s treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
But as the former rebel leader, who is claimed to have fought for the marginalized people, prepares to offer his wife medical treatment in one of the world’s most expensive hospitals, ordinary people have begun asking a simple question — who will foot the bill?
Sita’s health has deteriorated after the sudden death of her only son Prakash in November, 2017 from cardiac arrest. Doctors have diagnosed that she is suffering from Parkinson’s and other mental and physical illnesses.
These ailments require multiple tests and treatments. According to the official website of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the in-patient charges are $21,100.26 for organic mental health disturbances and $14,442.08 for depression except major depressive disorder. Similarly, the charges for lab tests are $526.31 for collection of venous blood (venipuncture).
These rates, however, are older ones available online. The hospital updates the charges on a quarterly basis. Also, these estimates reflect hospital charges only and do not include the fees of a physician or other service provider that are billed separately from hospital fees, according to the hospital website. “You may receive bills from multiple physicians for their services, including but not limited to your anesthesiologist, hospitalist, pathologist, radiologist, cardiologist, emergency room physician, and other specialists who participate in your care,” says the website.
These heads are just instances and other heads are even more expensive or similar for treatment at the hospital. Johns Hopkins Hospital is one of the most expensive hospitals in the world.
In the past, the government would foot the medical treatment bill of VVIPs/VIPs, ministers and political leaders. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, the government will not bear the medical expenses of any person for his/her treatment in a foreign country as per the Public Health Service Act, 2018. However, the cabinet may allow or decide about providing the cost of treatment of V/VIPs in hospitals abroad.
When asked if the government had released any money in advance to the Dahal family, communications minister Gokul Prasad Baskota, who is also the spokesperson for the government, said that the government has not released any money for Sita’s treatment. “We have not received any request from Chairman Dahal yet for the treatment costs,” he said. “However, the government will look at the bills and other details only after the treatment. And any decision will be taken later.”
Also, there is no information on how long will Dahal’s daughter and son-in-law spend in the US.
Chairman Dahal, who reportedly had planned to visit the USA two months ago, cancelled his visit after his strong-worded statement on the Venezuelan crisis that criticized the US and its allies sparked a huge controversy.
Chairman Dahal had so far been avoiding trips to various Western countries including the US, the UK and Australia out of fear of being arrested over insurgency-era cases. Sources said Dahal, before leaving or the US, secured assurance from US officials that he would not face any trouble during his stay there.
Earlier in June 2018, Dahal had visited Singapore for Sita’s treatment. In January 2018, the couple also visited New Delhi for her treatment, accompanied by his daughters Renu as well as Ganga.