Sick of new penal code, docs go on strike

  • Six thousand sign a petition stating they would submit their licences
  • Govt threatens action against striking doctors

Kathmandu, September 2

The Nepal Medical Association, an umbrella organisation of doctors, today handed a petition containing 6,000 signatures and aprons of protesting doctors to the Nepal Medical Council and halted all medical services, except emergency, to protest criminalisation of medical negligence in the new penal code.

The NMA has been demanding amendment to the new penal code that came into force on August 17.

President of NMA Dr Mukti Ram Shrestha handed over licences and aprons to Nepal Medical Council Vice-president Narayan Bikram Thapa.

According to Shrestha, NMA has collected licences and signatures of doctors from 16 branches of NMA. It will collect more licences of doctors and hand them over to the NMC.

There are 22,000 licensed doctors in the country.

Criminal Code Act, which came into force on August 17, stipulates tougher penalties for criminal negligence in the treatment of a patient. Doctors opposed to the provisions have been protesting against the government.

Issuing a press release on August 17, NMA had withdrawn all its protest programmes till August 31.

“We had provided 15 days to the government to amend the new penal code, but it failed to do so,” said Dr Lochan Karki, NMA general secretary.

Halting medical services, hundreds of doctors -- both government and private -- participated in a protest march that began from Maitighar Mandala and ended at New Baneshwor. The protesting doctors, who were joined by retired doctors as well, wore aprons and stethoscopes.

Addressing the protest rally, senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC said the new law would directly affect patients rather than doctors. “Instead of proposing tougher penalties, it will be more prudent to thoroughly investigate negligence on the part of doctors during treatment,” he said.

Speaking to THT, Minister of Health and Population Upendra Yadav said talks were being held at the ministerial level to register a bill in the Parliament to amend the penal code.

Ministry of Health and Population Secretary Pushpa Chaudhary said it would take time to amend the code, as due process had to be followed. “We have warned NMA against halting health services. If doctors halt services affecting patients, they will be booked under Essential Service Operation Act.”

NMA protest schedule

  • Monday: NMA will shut administrative business of all health institutions
  • Tuesday: Doctors will not attend OPD patients
  • Wednesday: Doctors will boycott operations other than emergency
  • Thursday: Lab and radiology services, except emergency, to be shut
  • Friday onwards: Docs to stay away from delivering all health services, except emergency, till their demands are metNMA protest schedule