The road ahead for Nepal’s healthcare system

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In Nepal, the healthcare system stands at a crossroads. Doctors and health professionals, often addressed with reverence as Doctor Saab, have been revered as life saviours in this society for generations.

However, the once unwavering respect for these professionals is gradually eroding, and the reasons are complex. A significant factor contributing to the dwindling respect for healthcare professionals in Nepal is the perceived commercialisation and professionalisation of the medical field at the expense of humanitarian service.

The cost of medical education and the acquisition of state-of-the-art medical equipment has driven up the expenses associated with healthcare services. While the cost factor cannot be disregarded, it is essential to acknowledge that the health and education of a nation’s citizens lie at the core of its development and progress.

The question that arises is: why has trust in health professionalism eroded so dramatically in recent years in Nepal? It is a dilemma that demands answers, and the responsibility is shared by both the service providers within the healthcare system and the public.

Who’s at the fault?

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In Nepal, the private healthcare sector has expanded rapidly, offering advanced medical treatments and services. However, the cost of private healthcare has reached a level that is often beyond the means of the common people.

Many spend their life’s earnings on medical treatment, with some even having to take on burdensome debts. The trend of hospitals recommending unnecessary tests in the name of diagnosis further exacerbates the financial burden on patients, leaving them with no choice but to comply.

For those with low incomes or living modest lives, the prospect of seeking medical treatment is often daunting due to the exorbitant costs associated with the private healthcare system.

Private hospitals, often criticised for their lack of transparency in medical practice and excessive charges, bear a significant portion of this responsibility. On the other hand, public and government hospitals struggle to provide adequate infrastructure and services, leading to the public’s disillusionment.

In the backdrop of these issues, there have been instances of doctors and healthcare personnel facing physical assaults and public outrage. But who is to blame in such cases? Is it the public’s frustration reaching a breaking point, or is it the behaviour and attitudes of healthcare professionals that push patients and their families to the brink?

The answer lies in recognising the importance of humility, empathy, and professionalism in healthcare system.

What’s necessary?

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The patient and their family must feel safe and secure throughout their hospital experience, from the moment they step through the hospital doors to the day they are discharged. Tragic incidents and unforeseen complications during treatments can be inevitable, but their handling and communication must be transparent, just, and convincing to restore faith in the healthcare system.

Regrettably, there have been several incidents where the sheer negligence of doctors and healthcare personnel has resulted in the loss of lives, further eroding public trust. While it is essential to acknowledge that hospitals cannot function effectively if their personnel are treated unfairly, it is equally crucial for healthcare professionals to reciprocate with the same level of respect and transparency.

A glaring divide between the haves and have-nots prevails when it comes to healthcare and treatment. Affluent individuals can access superior healthcare nationally and even internationally, while the less fortunate are left to grapple with subpar services. Until this chasm is bridged, the nation’s prosperity cannot be fully realised.

To address these pressing challenges, the healthcare system, health insurance companies, and government policies must collaborate to develop a framework that prioritises a win-win situation for both patients and the healthcare industry.

The ultimate goal should be to create an environment where individuals can confidently enter a hospital without a second thought, knowing that their well-being and dignity will be preserved.

It is imperative to reimagine the healthcare system in Nepal as one that is grounded in empathy, integrity, and a commitment to serving humanity. The healthcare system can be a cornerstone of the nation’s prosperity, but this vision can only be realised through cooperation, transparency, and a shared commitment to the well-being of the people.

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Lamsal is an academician, engineer and a researcher.

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