EDITORIAL: Lives in peril

The strike goes against the provision of the Essential Service Operation Act that forbids strikes in hospitals and health centres

The Nepal Medical Association has halted OPD services in hospitals, medical and dental colleges, nursing homes and clinics countrywide for the third consecutive day. This has put the lives of tens of thousands of precious human lives in peril. The doctors are demanding that the government withdraw the controversial decision of the cabinet taken on September 18. They are protesting this directive to the health ministry to make a law that would make individual doctors responsible if they are found negligent while treating patients. The erring doctors would be required to compensate the patients or their kin should they be found guilty of negligence. The strike goes against the provision of the Essential Service Operation Act that forbids strikes and protests in hospitals and health centres. The medical practitioners have put forward a demand for a provision of ‘jail without bail” for violence against them. Furthermore, the constitution guarantees the right to health. Among others, particularly those injured in accidents and expecting mothers are affected by the closures of the various health centres.

This has prompted the National Human Rights Commission to term the strike by the doctors as “inhumane”. They are not abiding by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. There are reports that parliamentarians with less than a month in office are planning to put through the Health Profession Education (HPE) Bill in haste. This is unethical as it would enable some health institutions to benefit in particular political party members who have made investments in the lucrative health front. It would be fitting for the government to endorse the HPE Bill as per the recommendations made by the Mathema Commission. The Bill also seeks a ban on opening new medical colleges in Kathmandu Valley for the next 10 years. Some lawmakers have managed to put a clause in the Bill seeking reforms in medical education which is not fitting on their part. The only way out of this alarming situation is for the stakeholders, in this case the Nepal Medical Association and the government, to come to an understanding through dialogues. Were the doctors to continue their strike any longer they would be depriving  the much needed health services that is the basic need of all people.

What is frustrating to note is that the parliament often endorses Bills without holding serious and meaningful discussions with the concerned stakeholders and affected population with a wide impact on society that the Bills may leave in the long run. No Bill should be passed in haste; there must be composite dialogues among all stakeholders as a Bill will have a pervasive impact in society. At present almost all the health sector are in doldrums. This sector is very sensitive as it involves the lives of people. Health services now are almost in a standstill with only the emergency wards operating. These are overcrowded and unable to handle the emergency cases. Let us hope that reason will prevail and the doctors will refrain from holding the strike longer. We, therefore, call on all doctors to uphold their professional dignity and to see to it that they resumed work.

Deadline missed

The contractor of the Melamchi Water Supply Project has said that it will be able to supply water to thirsty Kathmandu Valley within next six months. The contractor has given a written commitment to supply water by March 26 next year as it has made progress in digging the 27.5-km long tunnel which will supply water to the Valley from Larke and Yangri Rivers in Sindhupalchowk. It will take at least three months to make a breakthrough on the tunnel and another three more months to make final preparations for the water supply.

Once the construction of tunnel and other infrastructure are ready the project will be supplying 170 MLD. The project also has a plan to supply additional 340 MLD in the second phase which will be enough to supply drinking water to the Valley for the next 15 years. The first deadline to complete the project was set for 2007 and the second one was set for 2016. But the Italian contractor failed to meet both the deadlines. The final deadline was set for October 2017 which was also missed by the contractor. The daily demand of water in the Valley stands at 370 MLD while the KUKL supplies only 110 MLd.