Panic and confusion reigned in city hospitals on Tuesday as doctors left the city en masse to join the Belagavi protest against the KPME Amendment Bill. Belagavi Chalo is the second leg of the hunger strike by IMA members that gripped the state, as functioning hospitals in Bengaluru struggled to locate doctors and clinicians. The contentious bill, which calls for transparency in pricing and bans private clinics near government hospitals, has had private doctors and medical professionals up in arms. Protestors show no sign of backing down unless the proposed amendments are withdrawn, says Joyeeta Chakravorty.
The government, which is having to deal with doctors on the warpath over its proposed law to regularise private hospitals and their clinics, is now having to fend off more criticism following the death of three patients allegedly for want of medical care during their strike.
Things were not looking any better on Tuesday as many doctors from the city headed off to Belgaum to support those from their fraternity on strike there. The doctors and private clinicians, who remained, wore black badges to work in the city to register their protest.
The impact on patients was clearly visible at the private hospitals . Sixty seven-year-old Indramma, who was brought to Chinmaya Mission Hospital (CMH) with a severe knee injury by two good samaritans after meeting with an accident in Michael Palya , had to be content with receiving only first-aid before being sent home.
She was not the only one who suffered. Many in the city were inconvenienced. Lamented, Mr Kumaraswamy of Murugeshpalya, “It is extremely uncertain whether clinics will be open or closed. We are suffering because of the growing tension between the government and private hospitals.”
The recent debates on the KPME Amendment Act 2017 appear to have widened the ‘trust deficit’ among the government and private players. The government has the responsibility of providing support to both sets of providers and ensure quality. Doctors already are under many legal frameworks for grievance-redressal by patients and additional systems are not only redundant but paralyze the system in the long run (more litigation, harassment and diluted focus on patient care). ‘Trust and faith’ are key to health and healing, many drastic control measures will further make the citizens suspicious of all providers, and this will create a precarious condition for all in healthcare. Price fixing for treatment is not healthy in a free market economy and the government has already has provided coverage under many social health insurance schemes as well as has a huge health infrastructure to provide care. Strengthening delivery mechanisms and monitoring of the latter would ensure better care and health outcomes for the majority of the population.
— Dr Usha Manjunath, Director IIHMR Bengaluru
Besides having to turn away patients, CMH had to rely on Nimhans for its scans as all three diagnostic centres nearby were shut. "We have a CT scan ourselves, but with our doctors on strike, we could not use it and asked the patient's family to get it done elsewhere , said Dr Murali, Chief of Emergency at CMH, adding, "When I refer patients to government hospitals, they do not want to go saying if they had wanted to go to them they would not have come to CMH."
"Before curbing our rights the government should work on improving its own hospitals. It should ask itself why people are so reluctant to go to them and want to come to private hospitals for treatment," said Dr Vasanthi Anand, an ENT specialist at Manasa CI and ENT Centre in the city.
To the best of my knowledge it is not listed for Wednesday. I have not seen the agenda for Wednesday, but the latest information that I have is that it is not listed. The Chief Minister has indicated to call a meeting on Wednesday and he has been authorised to discuss the matter at the session. The matter stands there.
— Ajay Seth, additional chief secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare
As of now there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the doctors’ agitation. Dr B Veeranna, state secretary of the Indian Medical Association, Karnataka, when contacted, said the stalemate continued as the Health Minister had not reached out to it to hear its troubles. “The Chief Minister has called us for a dialogue at the Congress Legislative Party Meeting on Wednesday and our joint selective committee will submit a report to him. But we have heard nothing yet from the Health Minister," he added, revealing that the doctors intended to continue their hunger strike in batches of three or four.
Hospitals await notice from IMA
Due to the uncertainty caused owing to protest by the private doctors, opposing the new amendment to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act, the city police on Tuesday evening checked with private hospitals regarding the confirmation of the protest, as there was no intimation from the Indian Medical Association, Karnataka. With over 5,000 private doctors participating in the ‘Belagavi Chalo’ hunger strike, most of the private hospitals and clinics remained closed on Tuesday. As the police wanted to ensure law and order and they went to various hospitals on Tuesday to check the availability of out-patient service. However, the police did not get any confirmation as all the private hospitals were waiting for a message from IMA.
Amendment Bill has been refined further in following aspects:
- No private clinical labs will be allowed near government hospitals
- If the registration authority does not take a decision within three months from the date of receiving the application, registration will be granted
- Grievances have to be disposed within 45 days
- Scope of fixing cost of treatment procedures and hospital charges refined
- Provision to publish draft cost of treatment and hospital charges, inviting objections, and prescribing the same adherence by the private medical establishments
- Except on written complaint by registration authorities, courts cannot take cognisance of offence
Doctors continue protest in Belagavi
Doctors from across the state under the banner of Indian Medical Association (IMA) sat on a relay hunger strike near the Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi from Tuesday in protest against proposed amendment to the Karna taka Private Medical Establish ments Act. Although a majority of doctors who took part in the protest on the first day left Belagavi late Monday, doctors from surrounding areas of Belagavi sat on relay hunger strike, which is expected to continue for the next few days.
All private hospitals in Belagavi continued to remain shut for the second day in a row on Tuesday and is expected to remain closed on Wednesday as well.
Most doctors from private hospitals in Belagavi took part in the agitation, causing inconvenience to a large number of patients.
H.N. Ravindranath, IMA president, told reporters that there will be total shut down of private clinics across the state if the state government goes ahead with the bill in the lower House. Most of doctors in the state have assured IMA that they would fully support its decisions with regard to the ongoing strike.
While Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has already held talks with IMA members, the latter are not in a position to withdraw their agitation and are waiting to see whether the bill will be tabled in the next eight days of the winter session. According to Ravindranath, the Chief Minister is keen to discuss with experts and the IMA members before tabling the bill in the House.
On collision course
- June 16: A ‘Bengaluru Chalo’ was organised. Close to 60,000 doctors and medical professionals participated in a silent protest in the city
- November 3: A one-day token strike was observed all over the state, resulting in shutdown of clinics and hospitals
- November 13: A ‘Belagavi chalo’ was organised where doctors meet the Chief Minister at Suvarna Soudha. Protest and hunger strike will go on till November 23. A relay hunger strike is on by IMA branch members of the State.