Questions remain over PM Oli’s health as he returns todayIn the interest of transparency and accountability, the prime minister’s health status should be made public, along with his expenses and who paid for them.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will return on Monday after a 10-day medical trip to Singapore but no one appears to know how his health currently is. The government has neither publicly updated his health status nor detailed his treatment process.
Oli traveled to Singapore on August 3 for treatment at the National University Hospital on the advice of his doctors, who had recommended that he undergo a thorough check-up and take a leave of absence from his responsibilities in Kathmandu. Oli has been under strict medication for the past 12 years after undergoing both kidney transplants in New Delhi and developing a number of complexities over the years, which have kept him in and out of hospitals inside the country and abroad.
This time, apart from seeking a second opinion from doctors at National University Hospital, as per the advice of his doctors, the prime minister took a “small break from the rush and busy schedule” of Kathmandu, his advisers said.
But some say Nepali citizens deserve to know the health status of the prime minister, along with who paid for the medical treatment in Singapore, in the interest of transparency and accountability in governance.
Ever since Oli left for Singapore on Saturday, a number of social media users have been demanding regular updates on his health.
“He is not just the prime minister of the country but at this time, he is the property of the country so it is the right of the people to know the health status of the prime minister,” said former chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokhrel.
When a head of state or government is taken ill, the practice in most democratic countries is to release periodic updates on their health. When Oli was ill and was admitted to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital on October 29 last year, the hospital had released health bulletins on a regular basis.
This time, neither the hospital, the Prime Minister’s Office nor his private secretariat has issued any statement regarding his health.
“If the prime minister is not well, it is the government’s duty to officially communicate his health status to the public, periodically if not regularly,” said Pokhrel.
Oli’s aides and doctors told the Post that all is well with the prime minister and that they did not release a statement because his health is normal.
“He left to seek a second opinion from doctors in Singapore. He is fit and fine and returning on Monday after taking a break,” Kundan Aryal, Oli’s press advisor told the Post. “His health status is satisfactory, so there is no need to release any statement on his health condition.”
However, Dr Arun Sayami, one of Oli's personal doctors, said that he was informally in contact with Oli’s team. Although everything was fine with Oli’s health, a few minor problems had been detected, according to him.
“Same minor problems were detected in Singapore but they were what we had diagnosed in Nepal,” Sayami told the Post. “I have been regularly examining his heart, so he does not have any heart problems. He has some problems with his kidneys, which are natural for those who’ve undergone renal transplants. The prime minister does not have any major health issues, so his team might not have thought it necessary to share publicly.”
Some in the public are afraid that the prime minister’s health could affect governance and the functioning of the state.
“If the prime minister is ill, who will run the country? He will not be able to monitor projects and the government’s work performance,” said Srihari Aryal, former chairperson of Transparency International. “In other countries, if the prime minister needs to visit the hospital time and again, he or she would resign.”
Many are also concerned about who paid for Oli’s medical expenses in Singapore, given the high cost of healthcare in the country.
“First, the prime minister should create an environment for quality and affordable treatment inside the country. People are not happy the way our leaders repeatedly leave the country for treatment,” said Surya Raj Acharya, the Sajha Party spokesperson. “Second, what is the source of his medical expenses? Government offices look into our sources of income for a few lakhs. Why should we not ask for the source of expenditure that the prime minister made in Singapore?”
According to Gokul Baskota, the government spokesperson, the state only paid for the airfare of the nine people travelling to Singapore, which includes Oli, his wife and a seven-member team.
“The prime minister will manage his own medical expenses,” Baskota had said during a press conference last week.