Health being an important aspect of human life, health institutions such as hospitals are known to be safe zones because of the services they provide for people. Many nations, both developed and developing, have promoted their state health systems at par with to the required standards and the leaders of their countries do not go for treatment in foreign countries for treatment in these countries, except in cases for serious ailments. However, why is it that the Nepali leaders have not paid sufficient attention to the country’s health department? Why are they not keen on promoting hospital facilities and services despite the country having numerous hospitals who claim to be ‘world-class’? The leaders though are happy to inaugurate the hospital buildings, do not take a step to the same doors when they need medical attention.
PM Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli visited Singapore twice for health check-up. Granted that PM Oli has a transplanted kidney and needs frequent medical supervision. It is not that Nepal does not have a proper healthcare facility that can provide the medical supervision to the PM, but because the PM, we believe, does not trust the medical institutes of the country to depend his life upon. After 2007, when Oli had his kidney transplant in New Delhi, he frequently went for check-up in either India, Thailand, or Singapore, but not in a Nepali hospital.
Besides PM Oli, there is not even a single Nepali leader, who has not visited foreign hospitals for medical check-ups.
Although Nepal’s 2015 constitution guaranteed basic health care as a fundamental right, access to high-quality care remains a privilege. The poor quality of the health system can be gauged by the use (or not) of the health system by heads of state. Nepali policymakers receiving medical care in neighbouring countries is now considered the norm. The government has provided several health facilities in many parts of the country, but they are not properly monitored. Every fiscal year, the Ministry of Health launches new policies and programs to enhance the health sector. But politicians and government officials don’t take its implementation seriously. In the current FY, the government announced an ambitious National Health Policy 2019. But the leaders and politicians never stopped going abroad for medical health check-up. The government has failed to replace the trend of abroad trip and also has failed to provide an alternative solution.
The case of PM Oli is just an example and the tip of the iceberg. He represents the Nepali leaders’ and politicians’ mentality. Therefore, ‘the tradition of Nepali politicians going abroad for a medical check-up hasn’t come to an end. This is disheartening at a time when poor Nepalis are dying from simple diseases like common cold.
Ministers and leaders have participated in international and national forums, seminars, and a health programs. They had to commit to enhance the national healthcare system. But when they face health problems for themselves, they reject the country’s available health services. None of the leaders have had their treatment done either in Bir Hospital, Teaching hospital, or in any other government hospitals.
Former minister of health, Gagan Kumar Thapa, had said, “VVIPs should seek medical treatment within the country and the trend of allocating budget for only foreign medical treatment for VVIPs is discriminatory.” Thapa also said that all citizens are equal to the state. The abroad trip trend will never promote the country’s health service. So, the leaders will have to change their mindset to better the quality of Nepali healthcare service. Hopefully, this will decrease the going-abroad practice and slowly end it in the due course of time. Otherwise, the fate of Nepal’s healthcare system is doomed.
Author: Chakra Bikram Bam
Photo: Pratik Gurung