After widespread criticism, the Tribhuvan University has put the decision of granting affiliation to Kathmandu National Medical College on hold. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba reportedly had to threaten TU Vice-chancellor Tirtha Raj Khaniya with immediate dismissal if he failed to cancel the college license. The TU executive council headed by Khaniya apparently took the decision to grant affiliation by keeping the prime minister in the dark. The college did not meet any of the infrastructure or personnel requirements for it to be certified as medical college. The affiliation for it was also granted in clear violation of the government’s agreements with Dr Govinda KC. Thankfully this travesty of justice has been stopped, albeit for time being. But shouldn’t those responsible for giving it affiliation in the first place also be punished? After all, they violated every rule in the book to do so. If they are spared, what is the guarantee that the affiliation process, which has only been halted, won’t again be revived sometime in the future? If there are no repercussions for wrongdoing, the ‘medical mafia’ (as Dr KC refers to it) will be emboldened and continue to exert all powers at its disposal, and its powers are vast, to undo recent health reforms.
Dr KC has warned that he could soon start on yet another hunger strike if the government continues to ignore past agreements. One of Dr KC’s demands has been prompt implementation of the recommendations of the Mathema Committee that had been set up to enact vital health reforms. In line with these recommendations, a Medical Education Bill was also tabled in the parliament. But as this bill was making its way through the parliament’s Women, Children and Senior Citizen Committee, which is headed by CPN-UML lawmaker Ranju Kumari Jha, the bill’s contents were surreptitiously changed. The changed version allowed new medical colleges inside Kathmandu valley, again in violation of the Mathema committee report. We can judge the strength of the medical mafia by the fact that it was able to completely blindside the prime minister on such an important parliamentary bill. It is good that the prime minister learned of the hanky-panky on time and instructed the parliamentary committee not to present the changed bill for its approval by the full parliament. But this, just like the cancellation of affiliation for National College, is a temporary victory.
Until heads don’t roll and until our parliamentarians and ministers don’t feel they will be held accountable for their actions, the task of bringing cheap and reliable healthcare to people’s doorsteps, as Dr KC intends, will continue to be stymied by the mighty medical mafia every step of the way. If the mafia can grant affiliation to a hospital with zero patients, zero doctors and not even rudimentary hospital facilities, the extent of its reach and financial powers can be easily guessed. This is why it is important to create a situation, both in and out of parliament, whereby the medical mafia gets absolutely no room to maneuver. Let us start by punishing those who pitched for National College’s affiliation by breaking the law.