Prime Minister's health condition under wraps

Prime Minister KP Oli returns home on 6 September after completing plasmapheresis treatment for his ailing kidney in Singapore.

Prime Minister KP Oli is going through his seventh plasmapheresis today in the National University Hospital in Singapore, and his health is said to be improving. After facing problems in his transplanted kidney, the PM has been under treatment in Singapore since 22 Aug. But even as the country's chief executive battles a serious health condition, official government and party channels have released very little information about the state of his health.

On 26 August, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal informed a meeting of the party's central secretariat about the state of the Prime Minister's health. According to Dahal, PM Oli would be undergoing a medical procedure called plasmapheresis seven times. Quoting Dahal, a top leader told Himal Media "If the results of plasmapheresis are good, the PM will stay in Singapore for another week. If the results are not so good, then further decisions will be taken based on doctors' suggestions."

On 22 August, PM Oli had departed for the National University Hospital in Singapore with his wife Radhika Shakya, Chief Political Advisor Bishnu Rimal, Personal Physician Dr Divya Singh Shah and Personal Assistant Rajesh Bajracharya. He had confidently declared that he would be back to celebrate Constitution Day on 20 September, and lashed out his detractors, saying he would be in politics for 15 more years.

After both of his kidneys failed, PM Oli had had one kidney transplanted in India’s Apollo Hospital in 2007. Kidneys have been known to work for 8-20 years after transplant, but antibodies can reject a transplanted kidney at any time, causing it to fail. Plasmapheresis is done to remove those antibodies, but if the procedure is unsuccessful then the kidneys may still fail.

Prime Minister KP Oli waves to the media before flying to Singapore on 22 Aug. Photo: Bikram Rai

PM Oli first went to Singapore on 3 August after problems in the transplanted kidney. Speculations whirled about his health at the time, but no information was officially provided. After criticism on that front, the PM's physician Dr Shah issued a statement before his departure on 22 August, stating that the amount of antibodies had increased in the PM's body, and that he would be undergoing procedures to remove those antibodies and increase the capacity of his kidneys. The PM has had plasmapheresis procedure six times since, and is undergoing the seventh one on Wednesday, 3 September.

As there is public concern over the Prime Minister’s health, his private secretariat and physician should be giving regular updates. However, the concerned offices have been keeping quiet, as if the chief executive's health is not of public concern. Neither political advisor Rimal nor Dr Shah have responded to queries on Viber. Physician Dr Dilip Sharma noted the PM flew to Singapore because there is no plasmapheresis  machine in Nepal.

The PM stayed only nine days in hospital on his last trip to Singapore, though doctors had advised him to stay for a week or more. The haste cost him dearly, as his hectic lifestyle back home led to a steep decline in his health. Though the PM repeatedly assured everyone that his health was OK, preparations were being made for a second trip to Singapore, which fuelled further speculations.

Despite growing questions, the PM said nothing about his health when he addressed Parliament  on 18 August. After participating in several high-profile meetings on the following days, including with Indian Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, he flew to Singapore on 22 August. This hectic lifestyle reveals that the PM is neglecting his health despite being unwell.

People with kidney diseases have low immunity and need watch their health. But the PM ignores this and does not take time out to rest. He has shown this tendency several times in the past, ignoring doctors' suggestions and carrying on stubbornly.

Last year, he gave tika to members of the public for four days straight, which led him to be hospitalised for respiratory illness. During the 2017 election campaign, his hands and feet got infected. After his health failed to improve despite taking medicines for two months, he was taken to Grande Hospital. The cause of infection was not found, and PM Oli was taken to Max Hospital in Delhi. He had previously been hospitalised for pneumonia in 2017.

The haphazard life that PM Oli has led throughout his political career explains his health issues. Beginning with jail time, he has led a life of struggle and uncertainty and lacked regularity in eating and sleeping habits. He has always struggled with high blood pressure, which is known to lead to kidney problems.

PM OLi in Manmohan Cardiothoracic Vascular and Transplant Center after he developed respiratory illness from applying tika to the general public for four days straight in 2018.

Doctors say that the PM should follow a regulated lifestyle that includes less hassle and more rest once he is back from Singapore. "He should rest for at least 6 hours a day and pay attention to a balanced diet," says kidney specialist Dr Rishiram Kaphle.

NCP party general secretary Bishnu Paudel is flying to Singapore to meet the PM, and will return with him on 6 September.