EDITORIAL: Good initiative

The government’s monitoring mechanism will have to ensure that all the targeted people have got such medical services in a dignified manner

The new constitution has guaranteed the right to health service to all citizens. It means that no citizens should be deprived of health facilities in all health institutions – public or private – operated across the country.

Even the private hospitals, medical colleges and nursing homes have some social responsibility. They must offer their health services to the people who cannot afford the cost of the health services.

As the new constitution has guaranteed that right to health service shall be the fundamental right, the Ministry of Health has recently decided that all the health facilities including private and nursing homes are also required to provide 10 percent free health care services to the patients they admit effective from December 16.

There had been this kind of provision in the past as well. But it was not strictly implemented when it came to the privately-run hospitals and nursing homes. The decision, if well implemented, will have pervasive impact on public health as the private hospitals and nursing homes will also be contributing to the nation and society.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa has said that the patients who cannot afford medical treatment in the private health facilities, elderly people, disabled and single women can receive free medical treatment even in private medical facilities under the “free medical service programme”.

Minister Thapa has vowed to implement the decision by introducing an effective monitoring mechanism which will make sure that all the private medical facilities have complied with the provision.

The Ministry has already issued a circular to this effect to all the private medical colleges, hospitals, nursing homes and community hospitals to implement the government decision. Before this decision was taken the Ministry had consulted the Association of Private Medical Institutions which had promised to cooperate with the government decision.

It is a welcome move that economically weak, elderly, disabled and single women – all of whom will have to produce ID cards to prove their status – will get medical treatment in the public, private and community hospitals and medical colleges as per the decision.

But the government’s monitoring mechanism which will be formed after proper homework will have to ensure that all the targeted people have got such medical services in a dignified manner.

This is a challenging task for the government to ensure that the beneficiaries are not harassed, ignored or humiliated by the service providers. Any such cases should be made punishable, maybe even the cancellation of their licenses.

An effective monitoring mechanism is also necessary to keep an up to date record of the patients to whom they have provided free health services as per the government guidelines. Apart from surgery, the 10 percent free medical services cover the provision of medicine and intensive care unit in all medical facilities.

It would be better if the ministry makes public a detailed list of services that the beneficiaries are entitled to get from the private hospitals, medical colleges, nursing homes and community hospitals.

 Power theft

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has told the officials of the Nepal Electricity Authority to deal with pilferers of electricity with an iron hand as it has been causing billions of rupees of losses to NEA. Power pilferage has several dimensions.

For example, it deprives NEA and the State of a considerable amount of revenue and is one of the factors in causing huge losses to NEA. It also has a hand in causing load-shedding as those who do not pay are taking benefit from electricity and those who are genuine customers get less electricity in a country where the demand for power exceeds its supply by far.

But power pilferage has been a perennial problem in the country, which has shown little signs of abating. And the quantity of power pilferage is appalling in the country; a negligible amount of pilferage would not make a significant difference.

Add to it the technical losses, which with better technology and management, can certainly be reduced. According to NEA, 26 per cent of electricity is being stolen, which is a staggering amount.

This perhaps means that the rate of power pilferage in the country has exceeded the rate that was estimated, say, three decades ago. Therefore, the fight against power theft should be launched on a war footing.