Implement the reportThe probe panel has made a fine set of proposals to ensure quality medical education
The Deuba administration stepped down shortly after receiving the report of the Medical Education Probe Commission (MEPC), and it remains to be seen whether the new government will implement the recommendations of a panel formed by its predecessor. People are also curious about what will happen to the National Medical Education Ordinance which needs to be approved by Parliament. The probe report has not been made public because it needs to be reviewed by the Health and Education ministries first. But as per media reports, it has recommended wide ranging reforms besides calling for action against 43 persons including the vice-chancellor, rector and registrar of Tribhuvan University (TU) for abuse of power to benefit the ‘medical mafia’.
The probe panel has made a fine set of proposals to ensure quality education and regulate the medical education sector. The report contains 29 recommendations which include taking stern action against medical colleges which disregard the regulator’s instructions. The university which has granted affiliation to a medical college can also withdraw it for failing to follow directions repeatedly. Likewise, the operation licence of medical colleges which charge exorbitant fees, admits more students than the enrolment quota and shows negligence in providing quality education can be revoked at any time.
The commission has also recommended establishing provincial medical universities in all seven provinces. They will have the authority to grant affiliation, but they cannot grant affiliation to more than three medical colleges. The report has called for allocation of seats by the university which issues the affiliation, inspection of medical colleges at least twice yearly by a committee consisting of experts from the university, Health and Education ministries and the Medical Council and payment of tuition fees through the bank. Likewise, students who get selected for reservation seats in the entrance examination are required to have at least 70 percent marks.
The probe commission, which also scrutinised the controversial affiliation issue of National Medical College (NMC), found a fake inspection report submitted by a committee led by a senior doctor. NMC had been recommended for affiliation by TU even though it did not fulfil the requirements. Following sustained criticism, TU cancelled its decision to grant affiliation to NMC.
The report of the commission, which was headed by Gauri Bahadur Karki, former chairman of the Special Court, can be taken as one step towards the betterment of health education and healthcare. This achievement is the result of the continuous efforts of medical education reform activist Dr Govinda KC, and the support of all the people and stakeholders who have supported his crusade. The Deuba-led government had been generally agreeable to the demands put forward by Dr KC. If Deuba had shown courage by taking action against the people accused by the Karki panel, he would definitely have received some credit. But he missed the opportunity.
Now a new administration has been sworn in, and it does not look like it will implement the commission’s recommendations. It is common knowledge that the CPN-UML is not in favour of such an ordinance. A bill related to medical education was rejected by the previous Parliament due to lack of support from the UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre).
So there is very little chance that the new government will fully implement the report.
The process of reform in the medical education sector faces tough days ahead. Dr KC has warned of another round of protests if the government fails to implement the recommendations of the probe panel. The way will not be easy for Dr KC because a group of people who are unwilling to back up his efforts have come to power. They will not hesitate to use all the resources at their disposal to make sure that the reform process fails.
Considering the circumstances and the gravity of the current situation, another round of protests seems to be inevitable. To prevent the occurrence of such a state of affairs, the KP Oli government should take this matter seriously and implement the probe panel’s report as soon as possible. MEPC chief Karki rightly said after submitting the report to the government, “I have done my job, now the responsibility lies with the government.” Let’s hope that the new government fulfils its duty by implementing the report.
Khadka is chairperson of Prakriya Nepal, an NGO working in the field of health, education and consumer rights