Senior orthopedic surgeon and the crusader of medical education reforms in Nepal, Dr Govinda KC, has won millions of admirers since he first started hunger strike to get the government address his demands in 2012.
In seven years, Dr KC has become a symbol of integrity, the person who puts his life on the line to pressure the government to work for the welfare of the poor especially in the health and medical education sector. And he has been doing so relentlessly, irrespective of which political party is in the government. Yes, Dr KC is too adamant at times, he seems to be too uncompromising too but whatever few reforms Nepal’s medical education sector has witnessed in the last few years must be attributed to his relentless struggle.
Take the case of Medical Education Bill that was passed into law in February this year. Some progressive provisions such as not issuing letters of intent to the private sector to open medical, dental and nursing colleges with bachelor’s level courses inside the Kathmandu Valley for 10 years from the date of enactment of the Medical Education Act, making MBBS graduates who studied under government scholarship serve for one year each in the remote and urban areas, establishing at least one medical college each within five years in each province are the results of his struggle. Besides, in line with demands of Dr KC, the government also set the fee ceiling for medical college students.
Understandably, the government will take time to set up medical colleges in provinces. But the government has not been able to enforce its own good decision either. For example, hundreds of medical college students from Kathmandu and outside have been protesting against the colleges for charging exorbitantly high fees—much higher than the ceiling fixed by the government.
They are asking such colleges to return the extra fees. The government directs the medical colleges to return such fees to the students but medical colleges are not complying. Instead, they are threatening to shut down colleges if they have to comply with the government’s order.
Dr Govinda KC is on 17th hunger strike in Dadeldhuara demanding that the government implemented its own decisions and agreements the government signed with him during his last hunger strike. This time around, he has also demanded establishment of a medical college in Doti and fulfillment of the demands of health workers of public hospitals in the far-west. His health conditions are reportedly deteriorating. In Dadeldhura, there have been solidarity rallies. We have always stood in favor of Dr KC because in spirit, his demands are related to making health and education accessible to the poor.
Thus the government should not ignore Dr KC. First of all, he should be brought to Kathmandu for health treatment. With 17 rounds of hunger strikes—each in interval of only few months—Dr KC’s immunity has gone down. Then the government should start talking to Dr KC and find ways to address his demands. Dr KC’s demands related to reforms in health and medical education are legitimate. He should be heard.