Govt, Dr KC’s team begin formal talks

We are positive that all the demands raised by Dr KC will be addressed

Kathmandu, July 24

The government and Dr Govinda KC’s representatives kicked off their formal talks today with both sides expressing commitment to make sincere efforts towards ending the hunger strike of Dr KC, who has been demanding reforms in medical education.

This is the first time the two sides have held a formal dialogue since Dr KC began fast-unto-death 25 days ago. Details of the talks held today were not disclosed. Both the sides said they would resume the talks tomorrow at 9:00 am.

The meeting is being closely watched by the medical fraternity, civil society and well-wishers of Dr KC, as an agreement would help the ailing doctor end his hunger strike.

“Today’s talks ended on a positive note. We hope to reach agreement tomorrow,” said Dr Abhishek Raj Singh, who is heading Dr KC’s talks team.

The government’s decision to hold the dialogue marks a complete turnaround from its previous stance of holding unconditional talks with Dr KC’s representatives. On the other hand, Dr KC’s representatives have also agreed not to press for withdrawal of medical education bill registered in the Parliament as a condition to sit for talks.

“We won’t mind even if the government tables the existing medical education bill in the Parliament and amends it before getting it endorsed from the House. But our demands have to be fulfilled,” said senior advocate Surendra Bhandari, a member of the talks team representing Dr KC. This is Dr KC’s 15th hunger strike to exert pressure on the government to introduce reforms in the medical sector.

“We are positive about addressing all the demands raised by Dr KC,” said Education Secretary Khaga Raj Baral, who is leading the government’s talks team.

Dr KC’s side has demanded that the name of the Mathema-led commission be mentioned in the preamble of the National Medical Education Bill, the definition of medical education encompass nursing and other technical subjects, apart from MBBS and MD, and the government be allowed to open any number of medical colleges in the country. His side has also demanded that a moratorium of 10 years be put on the opening of new medical colleges in Kathmandu valley, each university be allowed to provide affiliation to a maximum of five medical colleges, and new medical colleges be allowed to launch operation only after they operate the hospital for a period of three years.

These demands of Dr KC were also discussed by educationist Kedar Bhakta Mathema and Nepal Medical Council Chairman Dharma Kanta Baskota during a meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and NCP Parliamentary party deputy-leader Subas Chandra Nembang today.

“PM Oli and Dahal were very sincere towards formulating a medical education bill that benefits the less privileged who can’t get access to quality healthcare services,” Mathema said, emerging from the 45-minute meeting. “The comments of the two leaders were unlike what was circulating in the media.”

Mathema is the key architect of a report prepared in June 2015 based on which the Deuba-led government had formulated the National Medical Education Ordinance, the validity of which has expired. Dr KC began his strike demanding that the new National Medical Education Bill be drafted without changing key provisions of the ordinance.