The Struggle for Affordable Healthcare: The Plight of Poor Patients in Nepal's Private Hospitals

The Struggle for Affordable Healthcare: The Plight of Poor Patients in Nepal's Private Hospitals
Credit goes to Kathmandu Post

In Nepal, a country where healthcare is a fundamental right, the reality is far from ideal. The private healthcare sector, which should be a beacon of hope for those unable to access public healthcare, is failing to meet its obligations. Despite government regulations mandating private hospitals to allocate 10% of their total beds to underprivileged and needy patients, this rule is often blatantly ignored. This article delves into the struggles faced by poor patients in Nepal, particularly in the cities of Pokhara, Chitwan, Biratnagar, and Butwal, where private hospitals are failing to provide affordable healthcare.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Affordable Healthcare

Gyanumaya BK, a 69-year-old laborer from Pokhara, is one of many who have fallen victim to this system. Despite spending over Rs50,000 on follow-up checkups and medications, she was unaware of the Health Facility Operation Standards-2020, which mandates free treatment for those who can't afford hospital stays. Like many others, she had to borrow money to pay her medical bills.

The Reality of Private Hospitals

Private hospitals, such as Metrocity Hospital in Pokhara, admit to not adhering to the mandate. Instead of dedicating 10% of their beds to the less privileged, they offer a 10-15% discount on the final hospital bill. This practice is widespread, with no regulatory body having data on whether health facilities are following government rules, especially the Health Facility Operation Standards-2020.

The Need for Effective Monitoring

The lack of effective monitoring and inspection is a significant issue. Local hospitals often disregard the regulations due to lax monitoring. The lack of manpower hampers effective inspection, and hospitals often fail to provide proof of the discounts provided.

The Struggle for Transparency

In Biratnagar, hospitals have been found presenting fake documents to acquire permits for upgrades or purchasing equipment. The Biratnagar Metropolis has refused permits to 12 private hospitals in the current fiscal year due to this issue.

The Plight of the Poor

The story of Suraj BK, a 20-year-old from Sarawal Rural Municipality-2 in West Nawalparasi, highlights the plight of the poor. After a motorcycle accident, Suraj was handed a bill of Rs 70,000 for treatment. Unable to pay, he sought the hospital's help but was refused any discount. He had to take a loan to pay the hospital bills, highlighting the dire need for affordable healthcare in Nepal.

The Way Forward

The blatant disregard for government mandates by private hospitals and the lack of effective monitoring by regulatory bodies highlight the urgent need for reform. The struggle for affordable healthcare in Nepal is far from over, but with increased transparency, effective monitoring, and strict enforcement of regulations, there is hope for change.