President Bidya Devi Bhandari has issued an ordinance related to the security of healthcare workers and healthcare institutions (first amendment).

The ordinance has the provision of severe punishment to those who assault health workers, vandalize health institutions, and/or obstruct medical treatment.

According to the ordinance, those who set fire to a health facility are liable to imprisonment for maximum of five years or a fine upto Rs 500,000 or both.

Any damage to a health facility by vandalism or beating/bodily injury to a health worker will be liable to up to 3 years of imprisonment for or a fine of up to Rs 300,000.

The government has stated that the ordinance was brought to guarantee the safety of health institutions and their employees working at the federal, state and local levels.

COVID-19 quarantine, isolation and holding centers have also been included in the ordinance as healthcare institutions.

The ‘Ordinance on the Protection of Health Workers and Health Institutions (First Amendment), 2021’ was approved by the Council of Ministers was issued by President Bidhyadevi Bhandari on Sunday.

Health workers and health institutions had demanded strict punishment against the accused involved in the beating of health workers at Bheri Hospital last week.

Stating that such incidents could be repeated in other places as well, demands for a separate law to bring the culprits to book had grown.

According to the ordinance, anyone obstructing the work of health institutions in any way or abusing healthcare workers or threatening them will be liable for up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs. 100,000 or both.

Similarly, an 11-member committee will be formed under the coordination of the 12th level staff of the Ministry of Health and Population to work in a coordinated manner regarding the safety of healthcare workers.

The committee will consist of Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Nepal Medical Council, Nepal Nursing Council, Nepal Medical Association, Nepal Health Technical Association, Nepal Ayurvedic Physicians Association, Nepal Nursing Association, Association of Private Health Institutes of Nepal and Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Health.

Strict implementation of the ordinance’s provisions is expected to discourage mistreatment of health workers and strike, vandalism and arson at health institutions.

Nepal Medical Association had long been demanding a tough law following the dramatic rise in incidents of attacks on health workers in the country lately on the pretext of medical negligence.