Out-patient service in private hospitals and clinics across Karnataka were affected on Monday as some 50,000 private doctors went on strike in protest against an amendment bill that is intended to regulate their functioning.
"Out-patients will not be seen or treated in private hospitals or clinics across the state as our members are on strike against the (amendment to the) Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act," Indian Medical Association (IMA) state Secretary B. Veeranna told IANS.
The private hospitals, however, will have minimum doctors on duty to admit or look after in-patients and provide emergency services.
Around 25,000 private doctors from across the state are also staging a day-long demonstration at Belagavi, about 500 km from here, where the winter session of the Karnataka legislature began on Monday.
"We are staging the demo to draw attention of the government and the MLAs against the amendment bill which has anti-doctor and anti-patient provisions that will endanger private healthcare," Veeranna said.
The 10-day session of the Assembly and Council is held in winter every year to address the issues of people living in the state's northern region.
"We will resort to relay hunger strike from Tuesday at Belagavi if the government does not respond to our demand to drop the draconian provisions in the amendment bill. We will not treat out-patients," Veeranna said.
About 45,000 private hospitals, including 5,000 in Bengaluru, were shut on November 3 as doctors went on flash strike, demanding changes in the bill with penal provisions, including imprisonment, hefty fines and regulating costs for various treatments or surgeries in private hospitals and clinics.
"Though we conveyed our objections to the bill to the Health Minister (Ramesh Kumar) and sought the Chief Minister's (Siddaramaiah) intervention, no response came from them.
"Even the Select Committee of the state legislature, set up to review the drastic provisions in the bill, has not called us for discussion," IMA state President H.N. Ravindra said.
Karnataka Health Secretary Ajay Seth has directed all government hospitals to depute more doctors in the out-patient department to cope with the rush from private hospitals or clinics.