KATHMANDU, July 7: Feeling slighted by TU´s appointment of a man who is set to retire just five weeks later, Dr Govinda KC refused to break his fast unto death despite the Tribhuvan University (TU) appointing senior-most professor Dr Kumud Kumar Kafle as the dean at the Institute of Medicine (IoM) late Saturday night.
Dr KC had started the fast at two Thursday afternoon after members of a committee formed by TU to recommend three merit-based candidates for the post of dean at IoM resigned due to differences with Vice-chancellor of TU Dr Hira Bahadur Maharjan.
"We have been told that Dr Kafle has been appointed the dean by TU," Chairman of University Teachers´ Association at Maharajgunj Campus Dr Dinesh Binod Pokharel said. Head of the Department of Clinical Pharmacology Dr Kafle who became professor in early 90s meets the seniority criterion set by Dr KC, along with that of competence and qualification, but he was not really considered a candidate for dean due to his impending retirement.
"We are trying to convince Dr KC to break his fast as TU has technically fulfilled a part of his demand," Dr Pokharel added. "This is the safest decision TU could have taken today considering Dr KC´s deteriorating health, the Nepal Medical Association´s ultimatum to the government to start a nation-wide strike from Sunday and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai´s directive to VC Maharjan to make the appointment today," Dr Pokharel explained.
But Dr KC has been adamant that he will break the fast only after VC Maharjan makes written commitment to make a long term merit based appointment after Dr Kafle retires five weeks later. “We have been trying very hard to contact VC Maharjan for the past hour to convey Dr KC’s conditions, but to no avail,” Dr Pokharel told Republica at 10:30 pm.
Dr KC´s health has deteriorated due to the fast for over 55 hours. "His body has started to form ketone bodies due to starvation and we have to consider medical intervention if he does not end the fast within the next 12 hours," said Dr SM Acharya, who is in the team that has been observing Dr KC´s health.
Dr KC had also started a fast unto death on May 14 before ending it in the evening after TU, under instruction from Prime Minister Bhattarai who had called Dr KC to his residence two days earlier to withdraw the decision to fast, wrote a letter that asked a search committee to select three merit-based candidates. The doctors again started protests and Dr KC announced the fast after TU refused to extend term of the search committee for around a month. The agitating doctors then halted their protest program after TU sacked acting dean of Institute of Medicine Dr Arun Sayami on June 25 and assured appointment of a new dean by July 4.
Six top positions at IOM, including that of dean, have remained vacant for the past eight months. The doctors have also been demanding action against the IOM officials, including Dr Sayami, who were implicated in several irregularities by the Jayaram Giri-led committee formed after the 17-day TUTH strike in March 2010.