Nepal | July 05, 2020

EDITORIAL: Respect the profession

The Himalayan Times
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The government can no longer remain a mute spectator to the plight of the sick and must act tough to deal with the protest

Health care is a sensitive issue, where delay in the treatment by just a few minutes could even lead to a patient’s death. But doctors working in the government hospitals across the country have been on strike for a week now, causing untold trauma to the sick, especially those who are poor. It is common knowledge that treatment in a private hospital is expensive, and low and lower-middle income people can ill-afford a visit there, where all the treatment expenses must come from out-of-pocket payment. Every day, thousands of patients from across the country converge in the capital, after travelling for days and with little money, hoping to be diagnosed in one of those big state-owned health facilities and return home quickly. Thus, refusing to see such patients is inhumane. The government doctors are on strike because they are opposed to the handover of the authority to hire and transfer doctors to the provincial governments following the enactment of the Civil Servant Adjustment Act. This, they say, will affect their “career development” as they could be restricted to a certain province. In other words, the doctors want to keep on working under the federal government.

In January this year, the federal government had taken a decision to hand over the responsibility of managing and regulating the health institutions to the provinces, in line with the spirit of federalism. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health and Population handed over the regional hospitals, sub-regional hospitals, zonal hospitals, district hospitals, regional ayurveda hospitals and district ayurveda health centres to the provinces. However, some zonal and sub-regional hospitals are to be developed as tertiary level hospitals, with specialised services. The provinces have also inherited all regional health directorates, regional health training centres, regional medical stores, sub-regional health training centres and district public health offices.

The strike violates the constitutional provision that enshrines health care as a fundamental right of the people. It has drawn flak from the National Human Rights Commission, and the doctors must be feeling the heat with no sympathy coming from any quarter, other than the Nepal Medical Association, which has demanded the government address their demands.  The doctors should return to work, and any grievances that they have should be sorted out through talks with the government. The government must also give a sympathetic hearing to come to an acceptable solution. It is time we put a stop to the practice of calling a strike as a pressure tactic to get one’s demands met. The ongoing strike makes a mockery of the government’s recent ban on strikes in sectors that deliver essential services. The government can no longer remain a mute spectator to the plight of the sick and must act tough to deal with the Government Doctors’ Association of Nepal (GODAN) that is spearheading the protest. If there are to be protests every time someone is transferred to the provinces or local levels, it will be very difficult to institutionalise federalism. Minister of Federal Affairs and General Administration Lal Babu Pandit has asked them to quit if they are unwilling to provide services to the public. He sounds tough, he must now act as one.

Tatopani to restart

The Tatopani customs is to formally reopen on May 29, nearly four years after its closure due to the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015. The landslides and fallen rocks had destroyed the border town, bridges and customs point, which is the gateway to the northern neighbour. Nepal and China had worked hard to reopen the customs point, which used to be a major trading route between the two countries until the tremor damaged the infrastructure built on both sides of the border.

With the construction of a dry port at Larcha, south of the customs point, and repair and maintenance work on the road in the final stage, the Tatopani customs will become a major trading hub between the two sides. Business activities along the Araniko Highway had come to a standstill following the quake, forcing thousands of people in Sindhupalchowk district out of work. The Chinese side has also completed upgrading a section of the road from Khasa to the Miteri, or Friendship, Bridge. The volume of trade between the two sides is expected to double once the dry port and the customs come into full operation.


A version of this article appears in print on April 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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