EDITORIAL: Medical malpractices

These hospitals would not have dared run their business had the concerned agencies carried out regular monitoring

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested 17 people, mostly Chinese nationals, on Monday from five hospitals and three health centres in the Capital on charges of illegally working as doctors. The arrests were made after they were found to be working as doctors without getting operating license from the Nepal Medical Council (NMC), the sole regulatory body which issues medical practicing licenses to those who have passed MBBS or dental courses from any of the recognised universities or colleges. During the preliminary investigation, police found that the arrestees had not obtained medical practicing license from the NMC. Among the arrestees, some of them were working as doctors while others, including some Nepali nationals, were also operating hospitals. According to the existing law, a license from the Ministry of Health (MoH) is mandatory to run a hospital. The raids were carried out at Apollo Hospital, Thamel; CIWEC Hospital, Kapurdhara Marg; and three Lazimpat- and Boudha-based health centres namely China Great Wall, China Dental and China People. The raids were conducted in coordination with the NMC and Forum for Protection of Consumers Rights.

Before starting the job as a medical practitioner in the country one — foreigner or Nepali national — must pass a written test conducted by the NMC. It is the NMC which issues a license to a person who has passed the written test. All the 17 persons whose names and addresses have so far been withheld were not registered with the NMC. CIB officials say the number of such persons working as doctors without registering with the NMC could rise as investigation is still underway. The Nepal Medical Association, the umbrella organisation of the practicing doctors in the government and private hospitals, has also drawn the government’s attention to illegal operation of hospitals and health centres.

The MoH and NMC should have got the first hand information about illegal operation of those hospitals and health centres and stopped them immediately. As these people were not registered with the NMC, they also did not pay any tax to the government from the income they were making. It can be said that these hospitals and health centres were not only fleecing the patients but also were cheating the government. A simple question is that how it took such a long time to take action against the fraudulent health centres. Were the NMC and the ministry officials not aware of their illegal existence, that too in the Capital? These hospitals and health centres would not have dared run their businesses had the concerned ministry and NMC carried out regular monitoring. This is, however, not an isolated case. There are other registered hospitals which have also reported to have cheated patients time and again by charging more money under different heads, not permitted by the government. Five such hospitals were found to have charged 13 per cent as value added tax from patients whereas it should be only five percent. All these anomalies have taken place in the health sector because of the concerned agencies’ laxity in taking legal action. Nobody should be above law.

Ensure health services

One of the main objectives of federalism is ensuring service delivery at people’s doorsteps. But what locals of Bajura have been facing of late shows a sad state of affairs. Though health facilities in the district have already been brought under local levels in line with the constitutional provision, locals are facing a hard time accessing health care services. Bajura, which ranks the lowest in the human development index, has one district hospital, one primary health centre and 25 health posts.

According to Ramesh Kunwar, a public health officer at the District Public Health Office, there is confusion over functioning of health facilities and procurement of medicines under the local levels. Locals are at the receiving end due to acute crisis of medicines. Patients have been forced to buy medicines from private pharmacies. A doctor at Kolti Primary Health Centre, which is visited by around 100 patients every day, said the health centre has run out of its medicine stock. Health-related programmes in the district are yet to begin. The constitution says free basic health services are fundamental right of every citizen. There’s an urgent need to fix the ongoing problem so as to ensure health services to all.