Federal project left in limbo in Karnali districtsThe federal government in fiscal year 2019-20 had announced plans to build one hospital each in all local units of Karnali but the project has fallen flat.
Nandaram Budha of Chhatreshwari-5 has been waiting for the under-construction basic hospital to come into operation. A hospital close to home will save him the time and expense of going to the district hospital for treatment, he says.
“The construction of the hospital began more than a year ago but it’s nowhere near complete,” said Budha. “We walk the entire day to reach the district hospital. We have to spend around Rs2,000 to go to the district headquarters and return. Most villagers are deprived of health services due to the lack of a hospital nearby.”
The federal government had announced the construction of a hospital in each local unit in the fiscal year 2019-20. However, in Karnali Province, the federal project has been left in limbo.
Forty-one of the total 79 local units of the province laid the foundation stone to construct hospital buildings. But almost all of them are left incomplete.
The federal government had allocated a total of Rs180 million to nine local units of Salyan in the fiscal year 2019-20 to construct hospitals ranging from 5 to 15 beds in capacity. However, the government significantly slashed the budget in the following fiscal years, leaving the hospital project hanging.
The construction of basic hospitals has been put on hold in Kapurkot, Chhatreshwari, Kalimati and Siddhakumakh rural municipalities for the past one and a half years. While the construction of hospitals is ongoing in Darma and Kumakh rural municipalities, the progress is slow. None of the local units has made more than 40 percent progress on the project with Chhatreshwari completing just about 10 percent of the construction work of a basic hospital.
Bangad Kupinde Municipality and Tribeni Rural Municipality have just started the construction work while Bagchaur Municipality is yet to commence the hospital construction work as it does not have land for the infrastructure construction.
The locals who were optimistic about getting quality health services in their own village with the construction of the basic hospital feel let down. They urge the authorities to expedite the work and initiate service delivery as soon as possible.
“We are deprived of health facilities owing to the negligence of the local as well as the federal government. We have a local health post but it’s of no use. There are no health workers or medicines,” said Sundar Bhandari of Kalimati Rural Municipality-1. “Seriously ill patients or those seriously injured also have to wait to be taken to the district hospital.”
The shortage of budget is one of the main reasons behind the project’s delay, says Bharat Oli, the chief executive officer of Kapurkot Rural Municipality.
“Only about 25 percent of hospital construction work has been completed so far, mainly due to budget shortage,” said Oli. “The contractor completed work worth Rs40 million but we have been able to pay only Rs20 million for the federal government is yet to release the entire budget.”
In Jumla, another remote district in the province, the hospital building project has met the same fate. The then state minister for health and population Nabaraj Rawat had laid the foundation stone to construct a basic hospital in Tila Rural Municipality in November 2020.
The estimated cost of the 10-bed hospital is Rs120 million.
“Only about 20 percent construction work of the hospital has been completed so far. The construction work has been delayed due to the lack of necessary budget,” said Dhan Prasad Chaulagain, the sub-engineer of Tila Rural Municipality.
The construction of a 15-bed hospital in Kanakasundari Rural Municipality is yet to begin. According to Damodar Acharya, the rural municipality chairman, the estimated cost of the hospital is around Rs185 million. But only Rs12 million budget was issued for the hospital construction in the current fiscal year.
(With inputs from DB Budha in Jumla)