KATHMANDU, Sept 14: At a time when top political leaders are being criticized for flying abroad frequently for medical treatment with state funding, a new provision has been included in under-discussion legislation that will stop the state footing the bill for any medical treatment outside the country.
The Bill to Provision Public Health Services was tabled in the House of Representatives Thursday, with revisions made by parliament's Committee on Education and Health.
The committee has added three sub-sections to the bill and these, among other things, bar the state from funding medical treatment abroad and prohibit government health staff from working outside their offices during duty hours.
“Irrespective of any provisions in other existing law, the Nepal government shall not bear the expenses of foreign medical treatment for any individual,” reads Section 29 of the revised bill. Section 29 was added on by the parliamentary committee.
If this provision became law through endorsement by both the upper and lower houses of parliament, political leaders will have to spend out of their own pocket if they wish to undergo medical treatment abroad.
The committee decided to adopt the amendment, which was registered by Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa, along with the added provision.
“The new provision aims at strengthening health facilities within the country. If the state stops footing the bill when our top leaders go abroad for medical treatment, they will have to focus on bringing our own medical facilities up to international standard,” said Thapa, who is a former health minister. The bill was initially silent on this issue as it was originally aimed only at ensuring citizens the fundamental right to medical care.
The state has spent anywhere between Rs 1 million and 11 million on foreign medical treatment for at least a dozen top political leaders within a decade. This has come in for public criticism .
A provision has also been added to the bill for setting up emergency treatment funds at the health ministry and at the provincial governments. These funds are targetted at the financially deprived, martyr families, families of those disappeared during the Maoist armed insurgency, displaced persons and the physically challenged .
The bill also makes it mandatory for all health institutions to meet the basic standards set by the ministry. Likewise, it makes a license mandatory for any type of health institution.
The new law should come into effect from September 19, as per the constitutional deadline for enacting laws related to fundamental rights .
Compensation for medical negligence dropped from bill
Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee has removed two provisions from the bill, including a provision for compensation to the victims of negligence by doctors or health institutions . The revised bill has dropped a sub-section from Section 47 that defines negligence during the treatment of a patient as an offence, and a sub-section from Section 48 that ensures compensation for the victim of Rs 50, 000 to 100,000 for negligence.
The decision of the committee comes at a time when doctors are protesting against a provision in the newly enacted Muluki Codes defining medical negligence as a crime and provisioning stricter punishment for it.