House panel fails to endorse medical education draft bill

Kathmandu, January 7

The Parliamentary Education and Health Committee has decided to put the process of endorsing the draft of the National Medical Education Bill on hold till tomorrow in the hope of garnering support of the opposition Nepali Congress, which has been pressing for accommodation of agreements reached with Dr Govinda KC in the legislative document.

The draft bill was passed by the Parliamentary Education and Health Sub-committee yesterday, although NC lawmakers wrote a note of dissent stating the document had failed to incorporate demands of medical education reformist Dr KC.

The sub-committee Coordinator Bhairav Bahadur Singh today handed over the draft bill to the full committee Chairperson Jaya Puri Gharti. The committee today said it wanted to endorse the draft bill unanimously, so it would wait until tomorrow to bring the NC on board.

But theNC is unlikely to change its mind by tomorrow, as its lawmakers Gagan Thapa and Chitra Lekha Yadav, today presented the note of dissent to Chairperson Gharti. Another NC lawmaker Uma Kanta Chaudhary, has also filed a note of dissent but it was not accepted by the committee today as he was not present in yesterday’s sub-committee meeting.

“We are trying to convince NC lawmakers to pass the draft bill unanimously,” Gharti told THT. “We will hold discussion with them tomorrow.” Gharti hinted that the committee would not wait for more than a day to bring the NC on board, implying the panel would endorse the draft bill tomorrow even if NC lawmakers did not change their mind. “We have a majority so NC’s absence will not make any difference,” said Gharti.

The government had earlier signed a nine-point agreement with Dr KC and expressed commitment to incorporate them in the draft bill. But some of the key points, such as inclusion of Mathema Commission’s name in the preamble of the bill, have been left out of the draft.

Another bone of contention is the provision in the draft bill, which paves the way for medical institutions outside Kathmandu valley that have already acquired letters of intent and built necessary infrastructure to begin operation.

NCP lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai said medical institutions outside the valley that have already acquired letters of intent and built infrastructure should not be barred from launching operation.  “The intention of Dr KC was to expand medical education outside the valley so that people can get equal access to medical education and healthcare services,” he said. But the government and Dr KC had earlier agreed to let the High-level Commission led by the Prime Minister to take a final call on that issue.

The agreement reached with Dr KC also calls for phasing out short-term CTEVT courses within five years after the enactment of the bill. However, the draft bill states that a decision on this issue, including phasing out and/or upgrading certain CTEVT courses, will be taken as per the recommendation of a task force formed to study the matter.

NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa said the sub-committee should have incorporated agreements reached with Dr KC. “Since it has failed to do so the committee has the opportunity to make amends,” he said, adding, “The government should honour the agreement it signed with Dr KC.”

NCP lawmaker Khaga Raj Adhikari, however, claimed the bill was more progressive than what Dr KC had demanded. He was referring to the provision in the draft bill, which states that the medical education sector should gradually turn non-profitable after 10 years, and could also come under the ownership of the government if the institutions wanted. “We hope the NC will join hands to pass the draft bill unanimously tomorrow,” he said.