Hundreds of private medical practitioners on Friday came together to protest against the proposed amendments to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act, 2007.
Scores of them carried placards, condemning the Act and demanding that the amendments be scrapped as they took out a rally from the railway station before finally gathering in Freedom Park.
Health Minister KR Ramesh Kumar had on Tuesday tabled the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the assembly, which if passed, will give the government powers to regulate private hospitals. For instance, the government will be able to decide the price that private hospitals can charge patients for various services. Those not complying with the government's orders can be penalised with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh along with a maximum imprisonment term of 3 years.
However, these proposed amendments exclude government hospitals from its ambit.
Needless to say, private medicos are up in arms against the government's move calling it a draconian, thoughtless and regressive act that will harm them.
The KMPE Act was passed in 2007 and had laid down several rules for private medical institutions, such as building requirements and basic standards of health services provided by them.
Calling the main act discriminatory, Madan S Gaekwad, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said that the government hospitals too should come under the Act.
He also called the draft act divisive stating that the government is trying to pit smaller hospitals against corporate hospitals. â€śBut both smaller and larger hospitals are complimentary to each other. Today, the large hospitals constitute only 5-7% of the private sector whereas the rest are smaller segment hospitals ranging from 10-50 beds,â€ť Gaekwad said.
Bharathi Rajashekhar, Vice President of the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment Association, who was also present at the event said that the act is impinging on their fundamental rights.
"The (draft) Act has got many fallacies and will hamper the delivery of health services to the common man. One of the clauses state that the grievance committee can receive complaints from patients on flimsy reasons, such as interrupting them when they ask questions or charging them more than what is stated. Doctors can be fined or even sent to prison. This is not constitutionally right because we have got the Karnataka Medical Council, the Medical Council of India and the Consumer Courts that are already present to legally provide justice in cases of negligence on part of the doctors," she said.
About the provision, which gives the state power to fix rates for services, Bharathi said, â€śMedicine is very dynamic. Each patient is different and each disease behaves differently in each patient. It is not possible to have a fixed rate for one problem as such,â€ť Bharathi said.
She said that since the government has not funded them or given them subsidies to set up, it does not have the right to fix the charges.
But aren't private hospitals often accused of charging exorbitant amounts from patients? "You have to give evidence. You can approach the consumer court if you are charged more than required. But no one talks about the services rendered, they only talk about the cost. The cost will be in par with the service given," she added.
While several doctors said that their aim is not to counter the government, doctors from private establishments say that they could either stop work in private hospitals across the state or stop work on all government related schemes if their demands are not met.
"Though the Karnataka government says that the Act is beneficial to the public, this will only harm both the medical fraternity and the public," Dr Srinivas Reddy, a private practitioner, said.
Bengaluru doctors protest against Karnataka government's bill ...
Bengaluru doctors protest against Karnataka government's bill regulating private medical establishmentsPosted by TheNewsMinute on Friday, 16 June 2017