Health is of key importance, but the Ministry for Health and Population is of little importance among all 26 ministries, according to Minister Mr. Khagaraj Adhikari who received APD exclusive interview recently. Excerpts:
Health Ministry overlooked, government hospitals demoralized
Why is the main problem that the Health Ministry faces?
It has so many problems. Health Ministry is given the least priority compared to other ministries. It is due to coalition governments in the past that remained unstable. Health ministry always fell in the hands of small parties. The parties all the time are busy for their own wellness but rarely worked for the nation's wellness. But we have been working hard to address these problems by bringing different policies.
What has happened to the health sector since you became the minister about 10 months ago?
After 22 years we have formulated New Health Policy and we are about to bring out Immunization Policy, New Population Policy soon. In a few months we formulated Blood Transfusion Policy and Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Action Plan. Since long Bir Hospital under National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS) had no any CT-Scan machine, we have set up CT-Scan machine in the government hospital now. After a long period, we organized NAMS senate meeting and we are organizing first convocation of NAMS very soon after 13 years. We are going to establish Pokhara Health Science Academy (PHSA) and Kidney Centre. Nepal has been able to become WHO executive board member for the first time. In addition we are formulating Urban Health Policy for the first time.
What significant changes in New Health Policy recently brought?
Universal Health Coverage is our fundamental guiding principle in the policy and it is set to make health services reach to remote and rural people who are deprived of it now. We are making vital registration process in urban areas to bring poor people in health statistics which are lacking in the context of districts or regions already declared fully immunized. We are planning to establish some regional trauma centers besides Central Trauma Centre inaugurated recently in Kathmandu. Health centers are located at rural areas but people are migrating to cities. The new policy will provide health services on the basis of population density. New policy has provision of a 25 bed well equipped hospital for thousands of people and within the reach of 15 minutes distance. We have planned to invest maximum Rs. 900,000 for each patient of Kidney, Alzimer and Parkinsonism disease.
It is reported that service provided by government hospitals is very poor.
The real situation is not disclosed. Media have made them show worse in the voice of private hospitals and stakeholders. If we go to private hospitals, we can see no hospital has multidisciplinary treatment system as in the government hospitals. Private hospitals refer serious cases to government ones. They have rumored about their public competitors. They are cheating and exploiting patients. Only some private hospitals are doing well. We have formed a body to check cheating attitude of private hospitals.
If what you said is true, why our leaders including PM Sushil Koirala, K. P. Oli, go abroad for their treatment?
I am very serious about this fact. We have set up VIP and VVIP wards at Bir Hospital separately. We are hopeful such overseas treatment will definitely decrease in future. In fact Nepal lacks modern and sensitive treatment equipments.
What is the annual budget for Health Ministry?
Very minimum budget is allocated for health ministry, just below 6% of the total budget despite that in different international conventions Nepal’s government promised to allocate at least 9%.
Where do the foreign health funds/grants go?
Some foreign grants are directly spent on the field without our touch; we are trying to make them come through the ministry. Some grants come as medical goods (vaccines, drugs, etc.). Limited funds are provided for confined areas. Those funds are not invested in the health infrastructure development. WHO, DFID, USAID, etc. are funding with this strategy.
(The author is the chief of the Xinhua News Agency Kathmandu Bureau.)
(Source: Sixth Page of APD 17th issue, published in December 2014)
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