Nepal: One-man struggle for medical sector reform deserves more public support

Asia Human Rights
October 12, 2017
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

Dr. Govinda KC, a senior orthopedic surgeon at Nepal's Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), and professor at the Institute of Medicine (IOM), was compelled to start his 13th hunger strike on 5 October 2017, after the government failed to meet its agreements from the previous 12 hunger strikes. Dr. KC has been staging hunger strikes at the TUTH premises in Maharajganj, Kathmandu to put pressure on the government to end anomalies in the country's medical sector, including medical education. Dr. KC had ended his last hunger strike after 23 days. He began his first hunger strike demanding reforms in medical education in July 2012.

The demands that Dr. KC started his 13th fast-unto-death with, are the same four-point demands previously raised: that the government enact the Medical Education Act in the spirit of the Mathema taskforce recommendations; endorse the Health Profession Education Bill from Parliament; impose a 10-year suspension on medical colleges in Kathmandu Valley; and, strictly enforce the government setting fee structure for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) education. Dr. KC has also urged the public to launch a protest for upholding the dignity of the judiciary, and taking action against corrupt politicians and government officials.

Dr. KC has now added three more demands: the termination of the 1971 Education Act, which he terms as 'anti education'; the cancellation of the affiliation granted by the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) to dozens of colleges; and, making provisions for free, cheap and accessible health service and education for Nepal's middle and lower income class and poor people of the country.

At the same time, Dr. KC is also asking for action against tainted Managing Director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Gopal Khadka including a fine, as well as the investigation of other NOC officials and politicians. He also wants an immediate budget allocation for starting classes at the Karnali Academy of Medical and Health Sciences, and beginning the process of setting up government medical colleges in different cities and towns of Nepal.

The government's indifference towards these demands shows its apathy and negligence towards the country's health sector, and people's resultant well-being. While the government has not made any attempt to end Dr. KC's hunger strike, his health is deteriorating, with low blood pressure and acetone in his urine. Acetone is a substance released when the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. This condition ultimately leads to fragmentation of muscles, once body fat is exhausted. Also, the quantity of calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, among other essential elements in his body, has been depleting, and this could pose a threat of cardiac arrest and memory loss. Doctors have kept him under oxygen support since October 9.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is extremely concerned about Dr. KC's deteriorating health. The government of Nepal seems to be turning a deaf ear to his legitimate protest. Nepalese citizens must come together and support Dr. KC in his crusade against medical irregularities and corruption in the country. The medical mafia, and corrupt politicians and government officials must be tackled with public support. The government must immediately implement the past agreements, and address Dr. KC's justifiable new demands. The government does not want blood on its hands.