Go for the doctorTime to start a public debate to stop lawmakers from profiteering at the expense of the people
Dr Govinda KC has ended his hunger strike after 23 days, a new record even by the good doctor’s own standards. For now, a large number of his supporters are relieved for the sake of his health. No matter how worthy and noble his cause, no one wants to see his health erode further.
Still, key demands remain unaddressed. It is clear that there is much that remains to be done before the required reforms in medical education are introduced. There is now also a danger that the members of Parliament will bulldoze a bill on medical education that flouts Dr KC’s demands as well as the recommendations of the Mathema committee.
In recent weeks, parliamentarians have been trying to find new ways to create loopholes in the bill. For example, while Dr KC and the Mathema report look to prohibit the establishment of new medical colleges in Kathmandu for the next decade, parliamentarians want to allow the creation of a few before the ban comes into effect. Now that Dr KC is no longer on hunger strike, parliamentarians could decide that the immediate threat to their position has been removed, and could very well pass a bill in favour of profiteers.
This would be a huge mistake. First of all, Dr Govinda KC has demonstrated great tenacity over the years, and he would probably not meekly sit on the side-lines if Parliament dilutes the legislation. Second, there is a growing constituency that supports his demands; he is seen as a rare voice of conscience in a system where powerful political players collude with unscrupulous businesses to make legislations that protect their business interests. The public is well aware of this, and there will be continued demands for medical education reform even if the lawmakers surreptitiously pass a bill.
In the immediate future, the political parties and the government should find ways to address the concerns of those who have invested in medical colleges in Kathmandu. The people who had invested in the Manmohan Memorial Hospital (most of them members of the CPN-UML) were fearful that they would lose their money if they were prevented from getting affiliation to turn it into a medical school. After negotiations, the government agreed to buy Manmohan’s facilities from them. This was a positive outcome that was never implemented. The government dragged its feet, and the owners renewed their insistence that they should be allowed to turn Manmohan Memorial Hospital into a medical college.
The best option at this moment would be for the two sides to reopen negotiations; the medical education bill should then be passed in a form that is in accordance with the recommendations of the Mathema committee. Of course, many other measures will be necessary over the long term. Ultimately, there will have to be debate about measures to prevent parliamentarians from passing laws that allow them to profiteer at the expense of the people.