Imagine the condition of critically ill patients when the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the government hospital in a town has remained out of service for two weeks. The patients in and around Birgunj are now compelled to seek critical care either in Raxaul, India, or in the capital itself. Even for the well-to-do, time is of crucial importance, as some patients might not survive the journey itself. The reasons for the closure are all the more galling — three senior doctors, including the ICU chief of Narayani sub-regional hospital, have reportedly gone to attend a conference of physicians in India. Officially, the ICU has been closed from October 30 till November 12 for “fumigation purposes.”

The doctors concerned and the hospital administration are undoubtedly guilty of criminal negligence. Such cases make headlines from time to time. But hardly ever have the guilty been brought to book, and this lack of punitive action encourages others to take further liberties. Many doctors in government hospitals tend to deal with the patients with callous indifference, while devoting their time, even during hospital hours, to private practice, so much so that some doctors have stooped to telling the hapless patients to seek the expensive treatment at private centres where they work. To this, the government has paid little attention. The Nepal Medical Association and the Nepal Medical Council have provided few reasons for believing they are serious about doing something about their unethical or guilty members.