One of the ways through which the state makes its presence felt among general public is by standing by them when they need medical treatment. This is why health and education are considered as the state’s liability in virtually all functioning democracies.
Nepal, it would seem, is the exception to this rule. Here, health care is unaffordable for the large mass of the low income and poor people who have to depend on public health facilities for treatment of virtually every kind of illness.
Private hospitals which provide relatively better quality treatment are either out of access of general people or they are so expensive that the poor cannot think of visiting them. Therefore a large number of people go to government health posts and hospitals but they either lack basic equipment or even doctors.
To make the matters worse, they lack even basic medicines. It is troubling that shortage of medicines has become a recurrent problem in our public hospitals and health facilities mainly in far-flung areas.
In Banke district, for example, Binauna Health Post is visited by over 60 patients per day. But the health post has failed to provide medicines to these patients due to shortage. It lacks medicines and antibiotics for general illnesses such as cough and cold. The situation is such that if medicine supply does not resume, the health post will have to halt the service.
Patients are forced to make personal expenses to purchase medicines that the government provides for free. Similar is the case in Bajura where health institutions do not have even the stock of paracetamol and in Rukum where health posts are facing severe shortage of life-saving drugs. They lack medicines for fever, typhoid and diarrhea. The government provides 72 types of medicines to the needy free of cost. But hardly any such drugs are available when people need them.
It is true that some good initiatives have been taken in the recent times to ensure better health of the people. The parliament in October last year passed Health Insurance Bill which has been authenticated by the President. Thanks to Giri Raj Mani Pokharel and Gagan Thapa, who during their tenure as minister of health, had pushed for such an important bill.
The health insurance is expected to go a long way in addressing people’s health. But all such initiatives will be meaningless if we fail to provide even the basic medicines to the people through health posts and hospitals. Chiefs of the health facilities attribute the shortage to new role of the local levels which release budget to purchase required medicines. Others cite remoteness as the main cause.
This is a lame excuse and demonstrates lack of sensitivity among the stakeholders to serve the people in need. When it comes to sensitive issue of public health, there can be no excuse of procurement issue or non-cooperation among line agencies. The Ministry of Health, Department of Health Services and other authorities responsible for providing medicines on time must spring into action. The constitution has ensured right to health as fundamental right. This right must be respected.