Manipal group forced to shelve expansion plans in Nepal

Though on the verge of celebrating a century in Nepal, Manipal group finds its expansion plans in this country shrivelling thanks to the host government`s failure to fulfil its commitments.

Kathmandu: Though on the verge of celebrating a century in Nepal, India`s Manipal group finds its expansion plans in this country shrivelling thanks to the host government`s failure to fulfil its commitments.

Nepal was the first destination abroad for the Bangalore-headquartered company, one of the largest healthcare management organisations in Asia.

Established in the sunny city of Pokhara in 1914 as a joint collaboration with the government of Nepal, the Manipal College of Medical Sciences (MCMS) and its 700-bed hospital is the first private medical college in Nepal as well as one of the largest Indian investors.

But despite its 96 years in the country, the group has not been able to start the engineering college and the 200-bed hospital it had planned in southern Nepal as well as a dentistry college in Pokhara.

"The government of Nepal had promised to give us 25 acres of free land in Pokhara so that we could start a dentistry college," B. M. Nagpal, dean at MCMS, told reporters.

"However, we have not yet received the land. Due to lack of space, we can`t start the college."

Four years ago, the group started constructing a 200-bed hospital in Janakpur, a major city on the India-Nepal border thronged by thousands of Indians for pilgrimage, work and medical treatment.

However, due to the growing insecurity in the Terai plains after the fall of King Gyanendra`s government in 2006 and the mushrooming of armed groups, the hospital has now been shelved.

The plan to start an engineering college in Jaleshwor, the main town in Mahottari district in the Terai, was also put on hold due to inundation problems. A canal runs through the land and recurrent submergence made it unviable.

Even the medical college and hospital in Pokhara lives under the shadow of constant vandalisation, strikes and other problems.

The medical college was affiliated to the Western Regional Hospital in Pokhara but since 2006, the local hospital has withdrawn the affiliation, demanding five percent of the tuition fees obtained from students.

"We were forced to approach the government, which then formed a five-member board to look into the issue," Nagpal said.
"The board finally recommended that we pay 10 percent more than what we were already paying the hospital. It took us three years to get just the recommendation and even then, the hospital is still refusing to comply."

Consequently, MCMS has been forced to curtail the number of seats. Instead of the 150 seats it had been allocated, the Nepal Medical Council during its last visit approved only 130 seats. Of them, MCMS provides 20 percent seats free to the government of Nepal, though other medical institutions provide only 10 percent.

As the paying students, who are charged NRS three million each, are the main source of funding, the drop in the number of seats has made a dent in the organisation`s funds.
The group has also been badly affected by the intense rivalry among the trade unions affiliated to the major political parties. The unions, to swell the number of supporters, have been demanding higher pay and perks for workers in violation of agreements and the hospital and college have faced several strikes.

It has also been targeted by patients` relatives. Only last month, doctors went on strike for a day after a patient, referred to a neurological hospital, died on the way and his relatives ransacked the ICU where 10 patients were on ventilators.

"When it is Manipal, things are blown out of proportion, sometimes by an unfair media," says a disturbed Nagpal. "Given this situation, we will not expand till we feel comfortable in Pokhara."


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