Dozens of Nepal doctors resign in strike over medical reforms

KATHMANDU (AFP) - More than 100 Nepalese doctors resigned on Tuesday as part of an ongoing strike to push for reform of medical education, while hospitals and clinics remained closed for a third day, the doctors' association said.

Doctors were still providing emergency and intensive care but all other services have been halted indefinitely since Sunday, despite a court order for their immediate return to work.

The doctors are striking in support of leading orthopaedic surgeon Govinda K.C. who is heading the campaign for reform, and started a hunger strike 11 days ago.

Mr Govinda, who works at the state-run Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, is also protesting the alleged political appointment of the institution's new dean.

"Some 105 doctors from Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital have already submitted resignation letters to the dean," a Nepal Medical Association (NMA) official told AFP.

"We expect more doctors across the country to resign later today," NMA official Milan Chandra Khanal added.

Doctors have ignored a Supreme Court order issued on Monday for the doctors to return to work immediately, citing a law which bans strikes in hospitals and health centres.

NMA general secretary Mukti Ram Shrestha told a press conference that the doctors "respected" the court, but added, "we will continue the strike because our demands have not been fullfilled yet".

Public pressure to resolve the impasse and re-open hospitals and clinics has been growing. The Himalayan Times said doctors "have not conformed to the oath of ethical professional behaviour".

"Dr. K.C. must be saved, however, equally important is the duty to save the other patients whether in dire condition or even less severe cases", the newspaper said in an editorial.

The 56-year-old surgeon is campaigning against alleged political interference in appointing heads of medical colleges and pushing for greater transparency and autonomy in state-run teaching hospitals.

The surgeon, well-known in Nepal for his philanthropic efforts to help victims of disasters at home and internationally, is also urging authorities to open more medical colleges in remote areas instead of focusing on Kathmandu.

Nepal has some 400 private and state-run hospitals and thousands of clinics, which serve over 100,000 patients daily, according to an NMA official's estimate.

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