Bengaluru: With more than 5,000 private medical establishments in the city, including hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres, going on strike on Friday following a call given by IMA Karnataka unit, patients had to reschedule their appointments.
"We are not running out-patient departments on November 3, but will run our emergency and ambulance services," said Govindaiah Yatheesh, medical superintendent, Apollo Hospital. The strike is in protest against some issues related to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Act, which is expected to be introduced in the forthcoming Assembly session in Belagavi.
"IMA was assured that some points would be changed in the amended bill, but nothing has changed. And the same thing will be implemented on November 13," said Dr B Veeranna, State Secretary of IMA. "In Karnataka, 80 per cent health coverage to the public is done by private sector. Why can't the government strengthen the public healthcare establishments so that they can compete with us? Why hold us to ransom?" he argued.
Terming it as ‘draconian’ private hospital doctors wonder why Public Health Establishments have not been included under the Act. They have also objected the clause that provides power to the Government to fix the cost of treatment rendered by a private hospital.
Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, founder and Chairman of Narayana Health, said, ”Our profession is being threatened by the KPME Act. Whenever there is a malpractice litigation we are investigated by the state medical council, consumer court, criminal court, civil court, Indian Medical Council and many other agencies. Now, the State Government wants to come up with one more body to investigate to any case of malpractice litigation by creating a district grievance cell. This is not the tragedy, the tragedy is that first time in the history of this country we are not allowed to represent ourselves with a lawyer. Even Kasab was allowed to represent himself.”
"There has been no response yet by the government on the strike. But if this continues we might shut establishments for good," Dr Veeranna said. “If they do not address our concerns and demand, we will escalate the strike on November 10," said H.N. Ravindra, president-elect, IMA.
They should have their own regulatory bodies: Activist
However, the Bill has its set of supporters. "The best that the private doctors of the state should do, if they really care about patients, is to put forward regulatory mechanisms that they would like to enforce on themselves,” said Dr Sylvia Karpagam, public healthcare activist. “They should apologise for the innumerable violations that have taken place till date, ensure grievance redressal for all those patients who have experienced negligence and violation, set limits on costs and stop viewing the government as an endless source of funds that can be squeezed to its last paise. This is the only way the ‘noble’ profession can be salvaged," Dr Karpagam added