Health minister spills some beans

April 20, 2017

My Republica, Bishnu Prasad Aryal, 20th April 2017, Kathmandu

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has started investigation into embezzlement of state funds by staffers no longer present.

The ministry started investigations after complaints that some staffers 

of the ministry who have either quit their jobs to go abroad, or have retired or died were still drawing salaries, according to sources at the ministry.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa admitted that such embezzlement was practiced in the health sector.

"We are investigating into the cases of misuse of state funds by staffers no longer present," Minister Thapa told Republica. "We are now looking into the files of four staffers," he added.

Talking to Republica on Wednesday, Minister Thapa said he was also shocked to learn about the arbitrary transfers of the health workers, doctors and staffers under the ministry. "The ministry hires staffers and dispatches them to vacant posts. But we have found that the staffers dispatched to a certain place do not go there and work elsewhere. This has immensely affected service delivery in the health institutions especially in outlying districts," he said. 

Minister Thapa also expressed dismay at overstaffing of doctors in certain health institutions. "I came to know that five doctors have been posted to a health facility in Kavrepalanchowk for which only one doctor has been sanctioned," he said. "We have to overhaul the policy to reform the health sector," he added. "Otherwise, we won't be unable to ensure people's right to health and provide essential health services to the general public."

Minister Thapa further revealed that some officials of the ministry are dillydallying in providing him with the details. "I asked them to provide me certain information immediately after I assumed the office about eight months ago," he said. "But they have yet to provide me the information. This means there is something seriously wrong with transfer and posting of health staffers."

Records at the ministry show that of the 21,484 vacant posts in the health sector, 4,291 health positions are lying vacant in Kathmandu district alone. This is the highest number of vacant posts among the 75 districts in the country.

A total of 21,484 health staffs including 675 doctors in hospitals, health centers, posts and other health institutions are vacant across the country. According to the details provided by the Ministry of Health (MoH), 4,291 posts are vacant in Kathmandu, 474 in Kaski, 435 in Dhanusha, 433 in Siraha, 426 in Bara, 419 in Morang, 409 in Saptari, 408 in Sunsari, 406 in Parsa and 396 in Dang. 

There are several positions lying vacant even in Bir Hospital in Kathmandu alone, according to MoH officials. "Among the highest number of vacant posts, more than 50 percent are for nurses," said a high-ranking official at the ministry. "The appointed staffs prefer to go to remote districts nearer from Kathmandu Valley for getting the facilities of scholarship for further study. The staff nurses and doctors get the scholarships to study further on paid leave for their services in remote districts."