K’tata Doctors’ Strike: Pvt Hospitals Shut, Rush at Govt Hospitals
Private hospitals wore a deserted look in Bengaluru.
Private hospitals wore a deserted look in Bengaluru.(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

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.

While out-patient departments (OPD) were completely shut, diagnostic and emergency services remained open. Most of the doctors did not report for duty. The OPD at Deepak Hospital said they have been turning down all requests for appointment since no doctor was available for consultation. 

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.”

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Posters were put up at Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru saying no doctors will be available during the day.
Posters were put up at Manipal Hospital in Bengaluru saying no doctors will be available during the day.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

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.

Several patients waiting at a government hospital in Bengaluru.
Several patients waiting at a government hospital in Bengaluru.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

Medical Fraternity Says Amendment Is ‘Oppressive’

Private hospitals were empty during the day due to the strike.
Private hospitals were empty during the day due to the strike.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

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

Government hospitals across Bengaluru were flooded with patients.
Government hospitals across Bengaluru were flooded with patients.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

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.

Also Read: Over 20K Doctors in Delhi, Guwahati Join Maharashtra Strike

(With inputs from The News Minute)

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