EDITORIAL: Docs in the dock

There have been frequent woeful cases of government’s inability to enforce the essential services legal provisions

A bus that was on its way to Jomsom from Muktinath  met with an accident Saturday as it fell down the road at Kagdeni in Mustang killing five persons and injuring 30 others, some of them critically. Three of them died on the spot and two others while they were treated at the district hospital in Mustang. The injured were taken to the district hospital after being rescued. Out of them 15 of the seriously injured were airlifted to Pokhara by a Nepali Army helicopter. However, the Manipal Medical College did not treat the injured on the grounds that doctors in the hospital are on a strike. It is said that they have been demanding permanent status to the doctors who have been working in the hospital for more than 240 days. They have also been demanding a hike in their salary. The strike that began since mid-February has disrupted classes and services at the hospital.

As per the legal provisions, those providing certain essential services are not permitted to hold strikes. Hospitals too come into this category considering the immense harm strikes cause to the general public when it comes to providing them with the vitally needed services. The concerned authorities too need to be blamed for the hospital refusing to admit the patients, especially the fatally injured ones, with the excuse that the emergency ward had been closed for the past two months as the doctors have been protesting. The injured, therefore, could not be treated there despite their critical condition. The injured, therefore, were taken to other hospitals in Pokhara. Here we need to ponder over who should be blamed for this sorry state of affairs, particularly when it involves the life of humans. Among others, the doctors and the hospital administration should be punished for their criminal dereliction of duty. This can be taken up as very irresponsible as the law prohibits them from striking no matter what for this serious offense.

In the past, the Manipal Medical College had been providing reliable, affordable health services to the public. The management committee of the hospital says that they doubted the intention of the agitating doctors. The committee has tried to avoid guilt from what happened for being unable to treat the injured by saying that they had already informed the district administration office and also the Kathmandu University to which it is affiliated as well as the Nepal Medical Council and even the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the Manipal administration is mulling over pulling out of Nepal if the protests continue to take place under one guise or the other. Considering this serious lapse, all those involved should come under the scanner.This hospital with 79 doctors who are Nepali, 57 of them permanent, and 45 Indian doctors, 24 serving permanently, and 800 other staffers had been providing services in a haphazard manner in the past with the doctors and other staff members agitating regularly. Therefore, all concerned should own up their part of the negligence. That the strikes in the hospital have been taking place for about two months already points out that not enough is being done to resolve the agitation that should not be the case. There have been frequent woeful cases of government’s inability to enforce the essential services legal provisions. But this should change.

Housing plan

The Ministry of Urban Development has come up with a plan of building 25,000 houses for the socially backward and marginalized communities across the country except the Kathmandu Valley in the next fiscal year 2017/18. The housing policy aims to provide education, health care, employment, food and social security to those backward and marginalized communities recognized by the government.

The beneficiaries are required to contribute at least 10 percent of the housing cost in the form of cash, labour or construction materials. Maximum cost for a house will not exceed more than Rs. 300,000 which will be given to them through a banking channel. It is a good move of the government that the economically and socially vulnerable communities will be living in earthquake resistant housing units assisted by the government. But these communities should also be provided with income generation skills so that they no longer have to solely rely on the government largesse. Collective housing plan is the best idea to support such communities who are living below the poverty line.