Former Nepal Army (NA) Chief Gaurav Shumsher JB Rana has called the NA’s decision to lease the modern building, built for Tri-Chandra Military Hospital, for commercial purpose irresponsible.
Setopati talked with around half a dozen retired generals including Rana, current NA Chief Rajendra Chhetri’s predecessor, and almost all of them expressed displeasure at the decision. Some refused to be quoted but Rana was scathing in his assessment of the decision. “The money of Nepal Army Welfare Fund can be used only for welfare purpose as per the welfare fund’s rules. It does not allow to do business,” Rana told Setopati commenting on the controversial decision. “One cannot build a building in the unused land of Nepal Army with the money of welfare fund and rent it to others,” he quipped.
The NA is set to rent the building at the heart of Kathmandu city in Mahankal built for Tri-Chandra Military Hospital to Everest Enterprises of Chandra Bahadur Shrestha for 15 years at around Rs 500 million per year. The final agreement for the lease agreement, however, has yet to be signed.
Rana revealed that the decision to construct the building was taken with a plan of operating a 45-bed hospital, Doctor of Medicine (MD) program and dental college. “This building was not constructed merely for the hospital. It was an important part of comprehensive health service under a teaching hospital,” he stated. “I had not imagined such a decision that can compromise dignity of the army would be taken. This is irresponsible.”
He claimed that it is wrong to change the decision of the welfare fund board to operate a hospital. “The board of welfare fund had allocated Rs 4.50 billion for construction and operation of hospital,” he reminisced. “Nobody had written a note of dissent then. Why has the decision been changed now?” he questioned.
He opined that the latest decision is an insult to even the Nepalis who had fought in the World War I. Chandra Shumsher was the prime minister at the time of World War I and the hospital was named Tr-Chandra in his honor.
Rana, great grandson of Chandra Shumsher, wanted to operate the hospital in some floors of the building—whose foundation stone was laid 10 years back by the then Girija Prasad Koirala when Rookmangud Katawal was the NA chief—before his retirement in July 2015. But the earthquake in April 2015 put paid to that plan.
Other retired generals also concurred with Rana and pointed that the sentiment of all Nepali people, and not just NA, is connected to the hospital that was built by the British 90 years back in recognition of the help Nepal provided to the British Empire during the World War I.
A retired general accused the NA of taking the decision under financial influence and urged the government to immediately block that. “The building is NA’s. But the NA is government’s. This building, therefore, belongs to the government,” the retired general argued. “One may as well do business in Bir Hospital if the building constructed for hospital is turned into a commercial complex.”
The general suspected hands of promoters of private hospitals behind this decision of NA. “Promoters of private hospitals had been saying it is difficult to operate the hospital right from the time when construction of the building started,” the general revealed. “The NA leadership has fallen for the ploy of the promoters of private hospitals who felt that operation of the hospital by NA would hurt their business.”
Many retired generals also suspected the person who has agreed to lease the building. They have questioned the financial status of the contractor who can pay Rs 500 million per year.
Retired Brigadier General Suresh Sharma said the NA leadership should be careful as the sentiment of soldiers is attached to Tri-Chandra Military Hospital. “The sentiment of the army is attached to the purpose for which the hospital was built. Blatant use of the building built for the hospital for commercial purpose can have a negative impact on the soldiers,” Sharma stated.
The map at the time of starting construction had a design for 14-story building. The NA had decided to build a modern hospital there to provide quality health service even to the commoners through the 14-story building.
The NA had argued that the hospital at the center of the city could provide service even at the time of disasters. The NA had claimed then that the open space of Tundikhel in front of the hospital would make disaster management easier. But the design was changed after the earthquake of April 2015 and it was constructed as a nine-story building including two stories under the ground.
“The NA should have taken decision in accordance to the objective with which the foundation stone for the building was laid. This building should be used for service purpose,” retired Major General Binoj Basnet said. “It would have been a service-oriented business if a hospital were operated. I fail to comprehend why this decision was taken.”