House panel discusses medical education bill

Kathmandu, August 28

The parliamentary Health and Education Committee today held a meeting with members of the high-level commission led by Professor Kedar Bhakta Mathema to discuss the contents of the National Medical Education Bill, which had earlier courted controversy and prompted Dr Govinda KC to begin his 15th fast-unto-death that stretched for 27 days.

The government had previously formulated the bill as per the recommendations of the Mathema-led commission. But after the incumbent government changed some of the crucial provisions of the bill, Dr KC, who has been seeking reforms in the country’s medical sector, had started his hunger strike. He ended his hunger strike on July 26 after the government agreed to address all his demands, including revising the content of the bill.

The parliamentary committee has already discussed the content of the bill with Dr KC.

Today’s discussion with members of the Mathema-led commission basically focused on enhancing the quality of medical education in Nepal. All seven members of the commission, except Dr Gunaraj Lohani, were present in today’s discussion.

The parliamentary committee was told that the commission had made its recommendations after conducting comprehensive study of the medical sector and analysing the present situation. The quality and performance of Nepal’s medical sector will improve if those recommendations are heeded, the commission members said.

“The commission’s report basically focuses on three things,” said Mathema. “First is the quality of medical education. This means medical education should not be within the reach of only those with deep pockets. Talented students, who do not have enough financial resources, should be awarded scholarships to pursue medical education. Second is access to quality healthcare services. And third is establishment of medical colleges outside Kathmandu valley.”

Dr Bhagwan Koirala, who was also a member of the commission, said commission members are not trying to exert pressure on lawmakers to incorporate each and every recommendation of the commission in the bill.

“What we are trying to do is enhance the quality of medical education, not merely addressing the demands of Dr KC,” said Dr Koirala, adding, “If there is adequate infrastructure to start a medical college anywhere in the country, the government should give permission to operate such institution.”

Dr Koirala’s comment comes at a time when the medical education bill has proposed 10-year moratorium on opening new medical colleges in Kathmandu valley. The provision was incorporated in the bill because of pressure from Dr KC. But some of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers are not happy with it.

“A thesis also has an antithesis,” claimed NCP lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai. “But where is the antithesis in the logic behind banning opening of new medical colleges in Kathmandu valley for a period of 10 years.”

NCP lawmaker and former health minister Khaga Raj Adhikari said it was inappropriate to bar those interested from setting up medical colleges in Kathmandu.