OPD services closed on fourth day of strike

Kathmandu, September 25

Out-patient services in hospitals across the country remained closed for the fourth day today, depriving thousands of patients of essential health services.

Nepal Medical Association has been protesting the Council of Minister’s decision on September 18 that binds the attending doctors to pay compensation in case of ‘death due to neglect. NMA has shut down all the medical services except emergency wards in hospitals, medical and dental colleges, nursing homes and clinics nationwide for the past three days. NMA has demanded withdrawal of the decision.

Hospitals such as Bir Hospital, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Patan Hospital, Maternity Hospital and Kanti Children’s Hospital, among others, have closed their OPD services. “It’s a team work and as doctors have supported the cause and are agitating, the OPD remained closed today too,” informed Dr Dipak Mahara, director of TUTH.

The patients however were seen visiting hospitals expecting the OPD service to open. However the OPD departments of the hospitals remained locked.

Chitra Maya Prajapati, 65, who was sitting and waiting outside the TUTH premises said, “I am suffering from fever and have come for a check-up but the hospital has shut down its OPD service. Though I knew it was closed, yet I wanted to give a try.”

There are around 1,500 to 2,000 patients visiting the TUTH, Bir and Patan hospitals respectively on a daily basis.

As talks between representatives of the government and NMA failed to address the demands of the agitating doctors the doctors today assembled and gheraoed the Ministry of Health wearing their white coats. “The Ministry of Health doesn’t have the right to withdraw the decision. As the acting prime minister too can’t withdraw the decision legally the meetings therefore haven’t been conclusive,” informed Dr Bhola Ram Shrestha, one of the members in the talks team with NMA from Ministry of Health.

The Council of Ministers had decided to formulate an act whereby doctors will have to compensate patients or their kin if found guilty of negligence during the course of treatment.

In a directive issued to the Ministry of Health, the Cabinet had asked it to draft a bill to curb negligence on the part of doctors and make them responsible towards patients.

NMA had condemned the Cabinet decision and had given the government 72-hour ultimatum to withdraw its decision. They have also demanded a provision of jail without bail. The jail without bail demand refers to sending anyone vandalising hospitals and manhandling doctors and health workers to jail without bail. “We have wanted a national discussion on this issue as it shouldn’t contradict with the constitution,” added Dr Shrestha.

Meanwhile, an emergency Cabinet meeting was called today to discuss the demands of the NMA. The government has urged the NMA to withdraw the protest and open the OPD services. However, NMA, issuing a press release today informed that the protest would continue. It has condemned the decision of the Cabinet saying that “it is only aimed to end the protest without reaching any conclusion.”