Monday, 25 January, 2021

Big Leap In Health Sector

On Monday, Nepal made a historic stride in the health sector. The government laid the foundation stone for basic hospitals in 309 local units and communicable disease hospitals in three states. It was the part of the setting up five to 15-bed hospitals in all 396 local units. The construction of the hospitals in the remaining local units will start once they acquire the land for the same. These new health facilities will ensure quality and affordable health services to all people. The programme and policy unveiled for the current fiscal year 2020/21 had envisaged building these hospitals. Former prime ministers, ministers, chief ministers, senior government officials and local bodies’ chiefs had simultaneously inaugurated new health facilities across the country. The landmark health drive has taken place at a time when the country is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, with growing number of fatalities. The coronavirus crisis caused medical emergency, exposing the weak health infrastructure.
The pandemic has made everyone realise a pessimistic fact: the people can rely only on the public health institutions in the time of unprecedented medical crisis. Profit-driven private hospitals and colleges were found pussyfooting around when the COVID-19 infected patients visited them. As they started to admit the COVID-19 patients under mounting pressure, they ran the gauntlet for charging exorbitant fees for their treatment. It is not only the poor and needy but even the middle class people felt that strong public infrastructure is a must to save the lives of people during the pandemic. The decision to open the large number of hospitals is in the spirit of very public aspirations and need. This also marks the return of the state that has been rendered weak under the laissez faire neoliberal economic policy that shows clear anathema to the public institutions and welfare scheme.
The present government deserves kudos for investing a huge amount to expand the hospital networks as per the federal setup. Of total Rs 57.97 billion allocated for the new hospitals, Rs 80 million has been set aside for building 5-bed hospital, Rs 110 million for 10-bed and Rs 180 million for 15-bed hospital. Of the 753 local units in the country, 649 local units did not have hospitals at all. In the first tranche, Rs 64 billion has been released to the concerned agencies and authorities to build these hospitals, according to the news report of this daily. The local units have been tasked with building the hospital themselves. The local elected officials should prove their mettle by constructing hospitals in time. They must bring an end to the practice of leaving the construction works in the middle.
The idea of establishing hospital in each local unit was floated some four years ago but the concept was not materialised in the absence of strong political will and necessary budget. The national charter has defined health as the fundamental right of citizens. Despite this provision, many people have been deprived of the basic health facilities in the far-flung part of country. Even those living in the urban and semi-urban places find it difficult to receive the quality health services as there is not adequate number of modern public health centres. Therefore, the new hospitals equipped with advance technology and competent medical staff is expected to end the precarious conditions of the patients living in the inaccessible places.  

How do you feel after reading this news?