Former chairman of the Special Court Gauri Bahadur Karki has claimed operators of medical college can earn money more easily than gold smugglers do.
Talking to Setopati about the malpractices in the medical education sector, Karki--who headed the probe commission formed by the then Pushpa Kamal Dahal government to investigate malpractices in the sector and to recommend action against the offenders--has explained how opening a medical college has become the easiest means to earn money in Nepal.
"There is hassle in gold smuggling. One has to invest money and then run risk of the smuggled gold being seized. But one can earn money from medical college even without investment," Karki stated. "Spend a little on politicians to get affiliation despite not having requisite infrastructure and then bribe the Nepal Medical Council (NMC) to get seats. One can rake in billions after that."
He revealed that the commission found that officials at the NMC received up to Rs 1 million each in bribe while going for inspection to determine the number of seats. "We don't have written evidence but we understand that NMC officials get bribe when going for inspection," he claimed. "All 18-20 officials at the NMC go for inspection of medical colleges even though a team of just five to seven would suffice. They would not do any inspection and just make money," he said.
He pointed that there is corruption from the time of granting letter of intent. "I am from the legal sector and did not know about medical education sector before working for the probe commission," he stated. "I now have knowledge even about this sector. The regulatory bodies never check whether there are malpractices in the sector or not. The people do not know what is happening there. They know only after bad results start to appear. The malpractices came to the fore only after Dr Govinda KC started his crusade against the malpractices"
Dr KC is into the 17th day of his fast-unto-death at the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences in Jumla demanding that the ordinance brought by the Sher Bahadur Deuba government be implemented as it is.
Dr KC has accused the government of bringing the bill to replace the ordinance with an intention of providing affiliation for medical college to four hospitals owned by businessmen close to the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN).
The ordinance brought as per the Kedar Bhakta Mathema led task force stops establishment of new medical colleges in Kathmandu Valley for 10 years as demanded by Dr KC, limits granting of affiliation by a university to a maximum of five medical colleges, and allows affiliation to only those that have operated a hospital, taking permission from the Health Ministry, for three years among others.
Karki pointed how the Maharjgunj Medical Campus under the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has just 76 MBBS seats while private medical colleges with fare inferior infrastructure and smaller flow of patients get 150 seats.
He provided an example of how Nobel Medical College of Biratnagar was enrolling 150 students despite having just 450 beds even though it should have 900 beds to admit 150 students in a session. "If a medical college can admit just 50 extra students it will get Rs 250 million extra at the rate of just Rs 5 million from each student. This is why they can buy everyone," he explained.
"The medical colleges can rake in billions as they do not have to provide quality education, need not keep qualified professors, do not have to buy necessary equipment, and need not operate the hospital well. They have plenty of money to bribe politicians and officials as a result. This is the root of corruption in the sector," he explained.
He revealed how the then chief commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki started to interfere in the sector after learning the amount of money the medical colleges make.
"The CIAA brought the then NMC registrar Dr Nilmani Upadhyay as an expert. Lokman Singh Karki understood everything about the sector from him. He then started to use Upadhyay and interfere in the sector after knowing about the amount of money medical colleges make," he claimed.
The Karki-led commission, that also included recently deceased senior neurosurgeon Dr Upendra Devkota and the then join secretary at the Education Ministry Surya Gautam, had recommended action against 42 officials involved in malpractices in the sector. But the government has yet to take action against any.
Karki recalled how the Deuba government had refused to even receive the report after joint secretary leaked the name of persons who have been recommended for punishment. "PM Deuba refused to receive the report. He agreed to receive it on February 4
only after I threatened the then chief secretary Lok Darshan Regmi that I will send it through the post office if he doesn't agree to receive it," he revealed.
He stated that the government should either implement the commission's report and punish the offenders or point at the shortcomings of the report and tell the people that it cannot be implemented. "I have written everything clearly as I am also a justice. I have pointedly given the reasons for which the particular individual should be punished."
He also refuted the claims of current Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel that the ministry has not received the report from the Prime Minister's Office. "Joint secretary of the Education Ministry was the member secretary of the probe commission. He even has the soft copy. The then PM Deuba had handed over the report to the then education minister Gopal Man Shrestha for requisite action in front of me," he claimed.
He pointed that the commission made recommendations through the report according to its mandate and demanded that the current government should immediately take action without making any excuse. "The leaders don't address the malpractices in the medical education sector, don't take action against the offenders and then go abroad for treatment," he stated.
He recommended that the president, PM and senior politicians should not go abroad and go to the medical colleges they have given affiliation to for treatment. "They cannot go abroad for treatment leaving the Nepali people at the mercy of the medical colleges opened here."