On Saturday, Bengaluru was witness to a unique protest, where activists holding placards gave away roses to officials against whom they were protesting. Activists of the Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali (KJC) gathered at Anand Rao Circle outside the office of Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Karnataka Health Commissioner, for not implementing certain norms mentioned in the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017, and reigning in private hospitals from mistreating consumers.
Akhila Vasan of KJC said, “The officer was initially reluctant and resistant to meet with us although we had taken prior appointment. But once he agreed to meet, he gave us a patient hearing and responded positively in solving the issues. He also assured that he will take action on some of the specific cases of medical negligence. He also said that he will look into the larger aspect of the implementation of the KPME Bill as pointed by us in our memorandum.”
In November 2017, the Karnataka Assembly had passed a watered-down version of the original bill under pressure from the private medical practitioner's community. The Suvarna Soudha, which was in session, saw protests by doctors against the bill formed by the recommendation of the joint select committee of the House.
The KPME Act, 2007 was amended in 2017 to empower the state government to fix the rates charged by private hospitals and penalise those flouting it. There would also be stricter grievance redressal mechanism and stricter punishment for medical negligence. Besides, it puts an end to the malpractice of demanding advance payment in case of emergency treatment, and not releasing dead bodies to relatives until all dues are settled.
However, in their memorandum to Pandey, KJC pointed out that although the KPME (Amendment) Bill has been in enforcement for nearly 10 months, its citizen-centric provisions have not been implemented.
“As before, patients suffering violations in private hospitals are running from pillar to post and there seems to be no one within the health department who is responding to their issues,” the memorandum read.
The memorandum further listed out that the necessary steps mandated by the Act were not being followed. For instance, all private hospitals have to display the Patient Rights Charter, information on internal grievance redressal mechanism, display of charges of various services/ procedures provided.
Moreover, the District Grievance Redressal Authority has not been constituted in any district. There is no information about the appointment of a woman member to the Authority, among a host of other patient-centric demands.