A commission formed to deal with controversies in medical education is itself mired in controversyThe Medical Education Commission is allowing affiliations to nursing colleges, despite a law that disallows any affiliations until existing medical institutions are mapped.
After much political wrangling and a series of protests in the form hunger strikes and doctor walkouts, a Medical Education Commission was finally formed earlier this year to deal with anomalies rampant in the medical education sector. However, instead of cracking down on the exorbitant fees charged by medical colleges and the nepotistic granting of licences and affiliations, the commission itself is indulging in controversies.
Even before office-bearers had been appointed to the commission, a fleet of luxury vehicles stood ready to welcome them. Seven luxury vehicles worth around Rs 50 million were purchased weeks before the executive chief and commission members were appointed. A Kia Sportage for the vice-chairman, three Hyundai Cretas, two electric BYD vehicles and a Nissan Urvan comprised the fleet of SUVs for the commission members.
Now, contravening provisions in the National Medical Education Act, the commission has authorised the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training to grant affiliations to nursing colleges that had applied for permission to operate before 2012.
Educationist Kedar Bhakta Mathema, who had led the drafting process of Health Profession Education Policy based on which the Act was formulated, says the commission has deviated from its role.
“It is unfortunate to see the commission working against the spirit of its formation. Allowing the council to grant affiliation to nursing colleges contradicts provisions in the Act,” Mathema told the Post.
Clause 6 of the Act requires medical education institutions to be mapped before new ones are added. The commission has the authority to standardise medical education, decide on integrated entrance tests, issue letters of intent, and develop policies to grant and cancel affiliations. Medical education institutions are required to draft a letter of intent before they can be granted affiliation, and the letter can only be given after the mapping.
The commission, however, has delegated the authority for granting affiliations without conducting the mapping, which would ascertain the places where medical institutions are already established and where such institutions are required.
Officials at the commission, however, say that the council will decide on affiliations for institutions that had applied prior to the establishment of the commission.
“It is wrong to say our decision is against the Act,” Dr Krishna Giri, vice-chairman of the commission, told the Post.
Though the commission was set up earlier this year, it only came into operation after the appointment of Giri, its executive vice-chairman.
Sources at the Ministry of Education say that the council is already preparing to grant affiliations to 29 nursing colleges to operate proficiency certificate-level education.
“Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel wants the council to permit them,” said a senior official at the ministry on the condition of anonymity as he feared retribution.
The commission has also increased the fees for MBBS and BDS education. Now students pursuing an MBBS degree will have to pay Rs 183,000 higher than the present fee and the BDS students must pay Rs 87,000 higher.
The commission has increased the fees for MBBS in the Kathmandu Valley to Rs 4.03 million from Rs 3.8 million. Similarly, fees for outside the Valley are set at Rs 4.43 million, up from Rs 4.2 million previously.
Private medical colleges can now charge Rs 2.019 million for BDS students, up from Rs 1.93 million.
“The fees were increased based on the inflation rate determined by the Nepal Rastra Bank,” said Giri. The inflation rate for the previous fiscal year was 4.5 percent.
Following much controversy over the rates that medical colleges are charging the students, the commission has arranged for students to pay their fees at the respective universities which will coordinate their colleges. Students who are demanding a refund of the amounts they were overcharged say it’s natural to increase fees but the fees need to be implemented as decided by the commission. In the past, private medical colleges have been discovered charging as much as Rs 6 million for MBBS students.
“We expect the commission will be bold enough to implement its fee ceiling,” Anit Sinha, secretary of the Medical Students’ Struggle Committee, told the Post.