Fifth time farce

  • IoM must continue to refuse medical affiliations until a policy is drafted
Fifth time farce

Mar 23, 2015-

There is little we can say that we have not said before—on the past four separate occasions that Dr Govinda KC has gone on a hunger strike, demanding reforms and an end to political meddling into the medical sector, especially medical education. Yes, it is profoundly tragic that a medical professional of Dr KC’s stature is forced time and again to resort to the only means of protest he knows—a fast-unto-death. Yes, political interference is hollowing out our public institutions, including the Institute of Medicine (IoM) and the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH). Yes, the issue is still the granting of affiliations to prospective medical colleges despite a glut of such institutes and the lack of proper operating guidelines. And yes, on Sunday, for the fifth time, Dr KC began a hunger strike in protest of the TU’s direction to the IoM to begin granting affiliations.

Medical education is a billion-rupee industry and medical colleges, which often charge up to Rs 5.5 million for a five-and-a-half year course, have powerful political and financial backers. The current furore involves a number of hopeful colleges, including the Manmohan Medical College, which CPN-UML lawmaker Rajendra Pandey has invested in. Prime Minister and TU Chancellor Sushil Koirala, under pressure from the UML, directed the Ministry of Education to begin the process of granting affiliation some three week ago. However, on March 19, the IoM’s Faculty Board, citing a lack of capacity to regulate and monitor new colleges, flouted the PM’s directions and refused to proceed. Dr KC commends the IoM standing up but does not seem certain they will be able to hold out. Hence, his fast-unto death.

There is, however, little hope that Dr KC’s fast will accomplish much, if history is to be any guide. As they have done in the past, the state and politicians will first attempt to ignore Dr KC. Then, when his fast nears a few weeks, when the good doctor is visibly infirm and it looks like they could possibly have blood on their hands, they will swing into action, visiting his bedside and imploring him to break his fast. They will make promises and sign agreements pledging to fulfil all of Dr KC’s demands. Then, there will be time for a photo-op with smiles all around. Once the story dies down, the racket resumes and Dr KC is once again martyred.

Dr KC has 10 demands this time around and all of them are salient for the health of this country. Bad education produces bad doctors and bad doctors lead to sick, dying citizens. A sector as important as medical education cannot be left at the hands of the ‘medical mafia’ who are only out to make a quick buck. The IoM must hold fast to its refusal to entertain any new affiliations until proper guidelines are drafted—a high-level committee led by former TU vice-chancellor Kedar Bhakta Mathema is currently in the process of drafting such a policy. The TU and PM Koirala too can follow the IoM and Dr KC’s example and show some backbone.

 

Published: 24-03-2015 08:56

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