August 22, 2017 12:30 AM NPT
Medical college affiliation
Dr Govinda KC often refers to the ‘mighty medical mafia’ when talking about the major impediment to vital medical reforms in Nepal. Repeatedly stymied in his efforts to bring about what should have been commonsensical reforms in how medicine is taught and practiced in the country, Dr KC knows what he is talking about. This mafia is so strong that it can successfully force vital government decisions without the knowledge of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. For instance the prime minister was shocked to learn that the Medical Education Bill that was passed by the parliament’s Women, Children and Senior Citizen Committee had been altered without his knowledge. In the process, the recommendations of the Mathema committee for medical education reform had been surreptitiously expunged. Shepherding the bill in the parliamentary committee was CPN-UML lawmaker Ranju Kumari Jha. Since UML parliamentarians and senior leaders have shares in proposed medical colleges that are being built against the spirit of Mathema committee recommendations, the party has been opposing, tooth and nail, the demands of Dr Govinda KC. And now the UML and medical mafia have secured yet another coup.
It transpires that during Dr KC’s latest hunger strike, a meeting of the Tribhuvan University executive council, headed by TU Vice Chancellor Tirtha Raj Khaniya, was secretly convened to grant affiliation to Kathmandu National Medical College. This decision, again made by keeping the prime minister in the dark, makes a mockery of the Mathema Committee report. This medical college located at Kathmandu’s Ghattekulo, with UML affiliates as its major shareholders, does not fulfill any of the criteria set for such colleges. In other words, it is in no position to either function as a medical college or as a teaching hospital. The only reason for its existence is that it is expected to make tons of money for its promoters and shareholders by overcharging MBBS students who eventually come to study in it. Interestingly, TU leadership claims the affiliation was granted based on a ruling of the Supreme Court. This is selective and incomplete reading of the verdict. In fact, the apex court ruled that any new affiliations for medical colleges should be based on the recommendations of the Mathema committee.
The only way to make sense of these developments is that a lot of money is changing hands to make affiliations for colleges of questionable credentials possible. Dr KC is now threatening to go on his 12th hunger strike, even as he is yet to fully recover from his 11th, and thus far his longest, hunger strike. Thankfully, the prime minister has intervened and instructed the parliamentary committee that cleared the flawed Medical Education Bill not to present the bill in full parliament for its final approval. Now he must declare the decision of the TU executive committee null and void. We would also like to take this opportunity to once again remind UML to realize just how unpopular its attempts to resist vital medical reforms are. The party that emerged the largest in recent local polls will pay dearly if it continues to oppose measures aimed at ensuring cheap and reliable healthcare for all Nepalis.