K’tata Doctors’ Strike: Pvt Hospitals Shut, Rush at Govt Hospitals
Empty corridors, absence of blue-uniformed staff, barely one or two patients at the cash counter – that’s how 45,000 private hospitals, diagnostic centres, and clinics in Bengaluru looked on Friday, 3 November.
This was because private hospitals, with the support of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), called for a 12-hour strike in Karnataka, demanding that the state government withdraw the proposed amendment to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act 2007. The amendment empowers the government to fix rates for medical procedures in private hospitals, prohibit all additional charges and advance payments, as well as penalise those violating the new rules.
A doctor at Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru said, “The emergency ward is functioning. We are not admitting anyone and all consultation appointments for today (Friday) have been rescheduled. Only if the patients are in an extremely critical condition, we will admit them. We are informing the patients about the strike.”
As a result of the strike, the OPDs at most government hospitals were packed with patients. The receptionist at Jayanagar General Hospital in Bengaluru said they have been instructed to prepare for an increased inflow of patients throughout the day.
Medical Fraternity Says Amendment Is ‘Oppressive’
According to doctors and practitioners at private hospitals, the proposed amendment to the KPME Act has been termed ‘oppressive.’ Some of the objections raised are the formation of a new grievance redressal forum at the district level and the provision to imprison doctors for overcharging as well as for mistreatment.
Government price regulation for medical procedures will have a detrimental impact. Besides, having such a pricing mechanism will not be fair. The level of specialisation and nature of treatment offered differs from patient to patient. If a ‘hernia’ (a type of keyhole surgery) is to be performed, the medical tests and drugs administered will be different for a 70-year-old woman compared to a 15-year old boy.Dr Kumar, general surgeon, North Bangalore Hospital
Private healthcare in the state is currently being regulated by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC). The consumer court takes over in case of any grievances and complaints.
“We are already accountable to two regulatory bodies. There is no point bringing in a new amendment. Also, the basis of fixing prices for private hospitals is still ambiguous. They have not laid down any scientific methodology for it. Many factors like cost of housekeeping, manpower, infrastructure, consumables, drugs, medical devices, etc, must be considered before arriving at a price,” said Nagaraj, an anaesthetist.
Academicians in Favour of the Bill
Academicians have highlighted that the amendment is not completely inclusive or fair. They are questioning the underlying reason behind government hospitals being excluded from the ambit of the Act.
Political and vested interests could be playing their cards. If a system of price regulation is fixed, it should be applicable to both private and government healthcare centres. I am not against the amendment of the KPME Act, but, I think the way it is being implemented is scary.Dr Prashant NS, faculty, Institute of Public Health
There are conflicting opinions when it comes to extending the Act to include government hospitals.
“It is illogical to include government healthcare since the nature of regulation required is different for private establishments. The private sector in India has no sense of accountability and transparency. They have opposed the amendment and called for a strike since they fear decline in profits. The private players have presented lopsided arguments to defend their opposition. The truth is they are solely driven by a corporate agenda. The state should not give in to their demands,” Dr Prashant added.
Government Geared up to Handle Strike
Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah said government hospitals were geared to handle the rush of patients. He said the doctors were asked to take care of patients and that it is not right on their part to protest prematurely.
The Chief Minister said the bill was referred to a joint select committee and a report was submitted. The bill is yet to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
(With inputs from The News Minute)
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