Instead of realizing the relevance of Dr KC’s call for reforms in health sector, the government has treated him in extremely cruel and hostile manner.
Senior orthopedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC is staging his 19th hunger strike in Jumla. The old soul has been battling for reforms in medical education and public health system for more than eight years, and for than 230 days in total, for the noble cause. Successive governments have treated Dr KC as an outcast, a trouble maker. Governments of different times have turned deaf ears to his legitimate demands. There has been a repetition of the same story of neglect, every time Dr KC rises to hold the government accountable. Dr KC launches hunger strike, then the medical fraternity rises in solidarity with him. Then the public pressure builds against the government. People come out in the streets, media stand with him, and his health deteriorates to a critical level. Only then the government of the day seems to pay a lip service to his demands, rather reluctantly. There has been a consistent pattern of neglect to Dr KC, all these many years.
Frankly, the government of KP Sharma Oli, which came to power riding on socialist agenda, has been cruel to him than perhaps any of the previous governments. The same government had agreed to make the necessary amendments in the Medical Education Act, one of Dr KC’s key demands. He wants the government to start MBBS classes at The Karnali Academy of Health Sciences at the earliest. He wants medical colleges to be established in Province 2, Gandaki Province, Doti or Dadeldhura, Udayapur and Illam or Panchthar. Dr KC’s demands are in line with the vision of Nepal’s constitution which ensures accessible medical services to the poor section of the society. The health crisis triggered by COVID-19 has vindicated Dr KC’s demands. We have seen how poorly equipped the public health system was to combat the COVID-19 while the private hospitals either refused to take in coronavirus patients or extracted hefty money from the patients for treatment.
Instead of realizing the relevance of his call for reforms in health sector, the government has treated him in extremely cruel and hostile manner. Travel restrictions are imposed on him, police seem to hound him wherever he goes, he is not even allowed to purchase medicine to serve the patients in remote districts, and so on. In other words, he is treated as if he is the biggest threat to the state. This is extremely reprehensible. As we write this, there are reports of his health failing him and he has been admitted to the ICU of the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences (KAHS) since late Saturday night. Dr KC has accused the government of abducting him.
The government seems to be thinking people will not come out behind him because of the pandemic situation. This is a naïve reading. Before anything bad happens to Dr KC and before the people come out in the streets, the government needs to reach out to the Satyagrahi and fulfill his legitimate demands, in such a way he does not have to put his life on the line for the same cause again.