The tussle for control of Nepal’s hospital between the authorities who oversee its functioning and the majority of the doctors working there got more intense after a governing body named a controversial figure as its new executive director.

Health services were partially affected at the Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) in the capital on Sunday. However, unlike last time, services at other government hospitals were not affected.

Atmosphere at the TUTH premises was tense in the morning after TU Executive Council on Saturday named Dr. Ratindra Shrestha as the acting executive director to replace Dr. Bhagwan Koirala who resigned on Friday after he was asked by TU authorities not to allow senior surgeon, Dr. Govinda KC from launching his indefinite hunger strike at the hospital complex.

Dr. KC began his indefinite fast, his fourth in nearly two years, on Saturday to protest what he called a breach of agreement reached two weeks ago when he ended his similar fast. The mood of the resident doctors and medical college students was defiant.

“We will not accept Dr. Ratindra Shrestha as new director,” Dr. Bhojraj Luitel, a resident doctor at the TUTH told The Hindu.

“He is a right-hand man of Prachanda (chairman of Unified CPN-Maoist) and does not qualify to hold the post.” Most of the department heads at the hospital also opposed the appointment of Dr. Shrestha.

Scores of policemen in combat gear were stationed at the hospital that has seen frequent protests. The DSP who led the police contingent said that he would use force “if the police administration asks us to do so.”

The Hindu made several attempts over phone to reach Dr. Shrestha but he did not return the call.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Tribhuwan University, Dr. Hira Bahadur Maharjan, who heads the TU Executive Council told The Hindu that the council appointed Dr. Shrestha after Dr. Koirala resigned.

“We cannot allow the Teaching Hospital to remain without a director.” Dr. Maharjan also rejected the demand of the protesting doctors to appoint senior most people as Dean and executive director at TUTH.

Dr. KC said he would continue his hunger strike until the government and TU authorities “honour their pledge” on reforms he has proposed. His demands include granting the TUTH an autonomous status, stop giving affiliation to new private medical colleges until a comprehensive national health policy is formulated, and dismissal of TU’s Vice-Chancellor, the Rector and the Registrar who he accuses of corruption.