One of the top priorities of the government should be reliable and affordable health care to all its citizens. A government is judged on the basis of how effectively it works to ensure quality health and education services to the people. Governments in Nepal have often failed on these fronts. The government of KP Sharma Oli also seems to be failing on this basic duty. The case in point is the sorry state of Kanti Children’s Hospital—where most of the country’s poor take their children for affordable health care. Republica has found that many of the poor, who visit this hospital to treat their sick children, are either forced to go to the expensive private hospitals, which they cannot afford, or wait for services at the mercy of the hospital administration. A mother was rushing to knock on the doors of high ranking officials at Kanti on Friday. Her baby was diagnosed of pneumonia and referred to Kanti from Chitwan. She admitted her baby on Thursday but the doctor came to attend the baby only 18 hours later. And then nobody came.
The mother represents plight of all the mothers and fathers who go to Kanti Hospital. The hospital has failed to provide care to the sick children after the Oli government slashed budget by 26.4 million. Only Rs 192 million has been allocated for this fiscal year whereas it was Rs 218.4 million last year. The hospital is struggling to manage medical equipments, apart from severe human resource crunch. The X-Ray machine is dysfunctional, oxygen plant has broken down, the hospital does not have its own MRI machine, and there is little money to buy additional equipments. According to hospital sources, of the total 39 government-approved positions for medical officers, only nine are occupied, of which only five are working, remaining four are on study leave. It does not even have a single specialized doctor in its orthopedic and ENT wards. The hospital does not even have a specialized pathologist and ophthalmologist, which is why most patients are referred to other hospitals.
Kanti is the only state-owned children’s hospital in Nepal. Around 800 patients visit this hospital everyday for treatment. Thus it must be furnished with better equipments, tools and competent human resources. The children who are taken to this hospital deserve better treatment. It may be recalled that during the tenure of Gagan Thapa as a health minister, the hospital had witnessed some positive changes. Its surroundings were cleaner and service delivery was relatively better. We refuse to believe that his successor, Upendra Yadav, is not capable of ensuring better services to the patients. Kanti must not be left in the current deplorable state. The health minister must immediately intervene to make the hospital fully functional so that poor mothers and fathers of children who go there for treatment don’t have to return in despair. When it comes to basic services like health, and that of children, the state cannot have excuses: budgetary, human resources or otherwise. The state is constitutionally obliged not to escape this responsibility. Investing in children’s health also means investing for healthy and prosperous country.