House panel okays medical education reforms bill

Kathmandu, January 9

The Education and Health Committee of the House of Representatives today endorsed the National Medical Education Bill without addressing key demands of Senior Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Govinda KC.

Dr KC, who had signed a nine-point deal on July 26 with the government, started fresh hunger strike in Ilam district to protest the parliamentary panel’s ‘failure to incorporate the points of his deal’.

Four Nepali Congress lawmakers — Gagan Thapa, Uma Kanta Chaudhary, Namita Chaudhary and Man Bahadur Bishwakarma — wrote a note of dissent on the bill.

The bill prohibits people from opening colleges in Kathmandu to run bachelor programme in medicine, dentistry and nursing for 10 years as demanded by Dr KC, but it allows the universities  to grant affiliation to medical colleges outside Kathmandu valley if the colleges have already taken letter of intent and meet the required criteria. Dr KC was opposed to this.

The bill states that public educational institutions will have to provide scholarship for 75 per cent of bachelor level seats, besides imparting master’s level education to eligible students   free of cost.

The bill adds that the government could open at least one government medical college in provinces that have no such college within five years.

The bill states that the government will make all medical colleges non-profit making and service oriented entities after 10 years.

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai said the bill’s provisions were more progressive than Dr KC could have expected.

The Education and Health Committee did not recognise  ‘Mathema Commission’s report’ in the preamble as demanded by Dr KC.

“We have put a moratorium on the opening of medical colleges in Kathmandu as stipulated in the nine-point agreement,” Bhattarai said. He said the panel also decided to incorporate a provision whereby medical students benefiting from government scholarships would have to serve at government designated places, including remote areas, for at least two years.

The bill stipulates that all Nepali students, including those who go to foreign countries to study medicine, or all foreigners who come to Nepal to study medicine, will have to clear the central entrance exam conducted by the government.

Bhattarai said the panel allowed medical colleges that had already taken letter of intent to operate outside Kathmandu valley because every year at least 1,000 Nepali students headed to foreign countries to study medicine, spending Rs 7 to 8 billion a year. It is not wise to bar Nepali investors from opening medical colleges outside Kathmandu valley, he added.

NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa said the bill was flawed and he would fight in the House to incorporate the expected changes.

“This bill neither ensures public investment in medical education nor does it propose a strong regulatory mechanism,” he said when asked why he wrote a note of dissent on the bill. Thapa said the argument behind putting a moratorium on the opening of medical colleges in Kathmandu for 10 years was to maintain quality.

“The NCP members agreed to make medical colleges non-profit making institutions if they were truly committed to it. They should not have allowed private medical college to operate outside Kathmandu,” he added.

Thapa said the government had signed a deal with Dr KC, agreeing to phase-out short term CTEVT courses, but the bill did not state a timeline for the same.