Doctors working in private hospitals across Karnataka will go on strike on November 3. They will be protesting against the state government’s decision to implement the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill 2017, and have threatened to quit if their demands are not met.
“If the government does not listen to us, we will quit our profession by November 10,” Dr Ravindra, President-elect of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Karnataka told TNM.
However, Akhila Vasan of the Karnataka Janaaroyga Chaluvali, a pro-patient organisation, does not agree with their demands in its entirety.
“They have a right to protest, but their reason is absolutely invalid. From the first day, their stance about the Bill has been extremely problematic. The only message that has come across is that they do not want to be accountable to anybody, least of all the patients or law of the land,” Akhila told TNM.
The strike called by the Karnataka chapter of the IMA will affect all private outpatient medical facilities in Karnataka from 6 am to 6 pm. Only emergency and trauma cases will be attended, the body said.
The amendment, which was aimed to regulate private medical care and make it beneficial for the common man, has been termed as “draconian” by the private medical fraternity. In their communication to the Chief Minister and Health Minister, the IMA communicated specific objections to the law, especially about the provision of imprisoning doctors for alleged mistreatment.
Speaking to TNM, Dr Ravindra said, “Majorly we are opposing some specific clauses. Stop the formation of a new grievance redressal forum at the district level. Already there are two regulatory bodies — Medical Council of India and the Karnataka Medical Council. Then there are consumer courts.”
He argued that this additional grievance mechanism is unnecessary and would be time-consuming. “When will the doctor treat patients? In one or the other way, by making these laws, they are trying to kill the confidence of the doctors.” The bill also has provisions to imprison or fine doctors, and also cap the prices of medical services.
Arguing that criminalisation will only prove to be counterproductive, he said that it will make doctors hesitant to treat risky cases. Akhila, however, argued that there was a need to safeguard patients’ interests in the wake of increased anomalies and said that there should have been serious self-regulation, which is lacking.
“Every day people are facing numerous violations. Do they have any kind of respect left for the Hippocratic oath they take? There are instances of manipulation of records and patients being threatened. It only shows how consumed they are by their own profiteering interests and their scant respect for patients and their rights,” she added.
Dr Ravindra also claimed that the capping of prices of medical services as proposed in the Bill by an expert committee is “unconstitutional”, and asked the government to invest in better healthcare. “Patients have a choice if to take the service or not. Moreover, the government charges heftily for a commercial license and other things,” he said, explaining his point.
“The government has to introspect. There is an existing shortage of doctors in the state. The budget allocation is insufficient, he adds.
Akhila is of the same opinion. “There are no two ways about it. They should invest and strengthen government infrastructure. People would not have gone to private hospitals if there were enough good government facilities. But that does not mean that the government should not regulate private medical care,” she says.