Experts call government plan to set up a hospital for teachers populistSay strengthening existing hospitals and expanding their services is what the country needs in the current situation.
The government has announced plans to open a separate hospital to provide health care service to teachers. Presenting a revised budget through a replacement bill in the House of Representatives on Friday, Finance Minister Sharma unveiled the government’s plan to establish a new hospital for teachers.
Nepal Teachers Federation, an umbrella body of the public and private teachers’ associations, had been demanding a separate hospital for teachers. Despite pressures from the federation, previous governments hadn’t made any decision to this effect. There are around half a million teachers in the country including those working at private schools.
There are separate hospitals for the Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force and Nepal Police and the civil servants. Experts on the health services say while the armies have separate hospitals in most countries, it is not common to establish dedicated hospitals for civil servants and teachers. “Establishing separate hospitals for each group of workers is a new trend,” Dr Senendra Raj Uprety, a former Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population, told the Post. “The government should be more focused on the immediate needs in the health sector.” Uprety said equipping and strengthening the existing hospitals and expanding their services is what the country needs at present. In his view, the government should work towards expanding the existing hospitals rather than increasing their numbers which only increases the administrative costs.
Experts on public health say every citizen of the country, no matter if s/he is a government employee or not, has the constitutional right to free basic health services. Establishing separate hospitals only for certain employees means the state has given more privilege to select groups.
“It is a populist decision of the government,” GD Thakur, former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, told the Post. “Establishing specialised and super-specialised hospitals is a need of the hour because treatment for liver and kidney diseases isn’t widely available.” Along with the announcement of a dedicated hospital for teachers, the government also decided to provide allowances to people with serious illnesses. Experts welcomed the announcement of the allowances but said the government should rather focus on making health services more affordable.
“The priority should be to provide quality and accessible health services to all,” said Thakur. Health experts say if the government is really concerned about providing health services to the ordinary people then it should strengthen the primary health care sector. They say 80 percent of health complications can be treated at primary health posts.
“We need to strengthen our primary health service facilities,” said Uprety. “The government should be more concerned about addressing the people’s immediate needs instead of focusing on populist agendas.”