Dr KC’s white blood cell count slumps

Kathmandu, July 23

The white blood cell count of Dr Govinda KC, who has been staging fast-unto-death for the last 24 days, has fallen to a critical level, making him prone to infections, according to doctors.

A blood test conducted today showed that white blood cell count of the senior orthopaedic surgeon, who has been staging hunger strike demanding reforms in medical education, had fallen to 2,000 per microlitre, which is way lower than the normal range of 4,000 cells per microlitre or more. A falling white blood cell count indicates that the immune system is not working properly to fight infections.

“We have thus asked visitors to maintain a distance of 10 metres from Dr KC to ensure he does not contract infections,” said Dr Bishad Dahal, an aide to Dr KC.

The test conducted today also showed that the amount of glucose, oxygen, potassium, magnesium and calcium in Dr KC’s blood was rapidly falling.

“Low level of glucose in the blood can lead to failure of organs, including brain and heart,” said Dr Dahal, adding, “Dr KC’s heart can stop functioning at any time.”

His blood pressure stood at 80/50mmHg, as against normal reading of 120/80mmHg, according to a source. His pulse rate has been fluctuating and hovered around 55 per minute this morning, as against the normal range of 70-80 per minute, the source added. This is the first time Dr KC had allowed doctors to perform his blood test since he was forcefully transferred from Jumla.

Dr KC has staged fast-unto-death 14 times in the past, making the current one the 15th. But doctors and his well-wishers are worried this time because it has extended for 24 days, making the hunger strike the longest one.

Dr KC’s aides have said he would end his hunger strike if the government agrees to withdraw a bill on medical education registered in Parliament and forms a talks team comprising a minister. But the government has not shown any interest in addressing these demands. “Dr KC has thus refused medication,” Dr Dahal said.

Dr KC has been refusing medical treatment since the government forcefully airlifted him from Jumla to Kathmandu last week. He agreed to undergo blood test today upon request of his mother, Mitra Kumari KC.

The prime minister’s personal physician Dr Divya Singh Shah had also convinced Dr KC to perform the test. “I have assured Dr KC that I’d explain his health condition to the PM,” she said.

To exert pressure on the government to address Dr KC’s demands immediately, the National Medical Association has directed hospitals across the country to shut down out-patient departments. It has, however, asked hospitals to continue providing services offered by OPDs through alternative means so that patients are not affected.

The NMA has also urged doctors to organise relay hunger strikes, rallies and sit-ins in coordination with the public throughout the country. It has also asked doctors based in Kathmandu Valley to take part in the hunger strike being staged at Basantapur to express solidarity with Dr KC’s demands.