Karnataka doctors end strike on court directive, government assurance

Doctors staging protest. Image Credit: The Hindu.

–TMC Desk

Bengaluru, Nov 17:  Private doctors in Karnataka on Friday called off their five-day-long strike on a high court directive and the state government’s assurance to modify provisions in the amendment bill on the functioning of private hospitals across the state.

“We have called off the strike as directed by the Karnataka High Court and on the state government’s assurance to modify the provisions in the amendment bill as sought by us,” Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) Karnataka Chapter Secretary Dr B. Veeranna told IANS here.

A division bench of the High Court, comprising Acting Chief Justice H.G. Ramesh and Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar, ordered the private doctors to withdraw their strike, as the state government had agreed to consider their demands on the amendment bill.

“Basic medical services are a right to life for every citizen,” said the bench in the interim order on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate on Wednesday against the striking private doctors and private hospitals.

Of the registered 1.25 lakh doctors in the state, about 10,000 of them are employed in the state-run hospitals, while over a lakh work in about 40,000 private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics across the state.

“The private doctors have agreed to call off the strike and report for duty from Saturday after the Chief Minister (Siddaramaiah) assured them to make suitable changes in the amendment bill before introducing it in the Legislative Assembly on Monday,” IMA advocate V.C. Mohan told reporters here.

The state government had incorporated penal provisions in the amendment bill to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act, 2007 to regulate the functioning of the private hospitals, including the treatment cost, redressal grievances committees and imprisonment of doctors if a patient dies due to their negligence.

“As we demanded, the state government has agreed not to form Grievances Redressal Committees at the district level. Aggrieved patients can approach the District Health Officer (DHO) or the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC) under the existing provisions of the KPME Act,” said Veeranna.

At a two-hour meeting between the state government and the representatives of the private doctors at Belagavi in the state’s northwest region, Siddaramaiah said penal provisions like imprisonment of doctors for negligence would be dropped from the amendment bill before introducing it in the assembly on Monday.

State Health and Family and Welfare Minister K.R. Ramesh Kumar, Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra and state Health Department officials participated in the meeting, while IMA’s Karnataka Chapter President Dr. H.N. Ravindra, and state Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) President-elect Dr. C. Jayanna represented the doctors.

“We have, however, agreed to the provision on displaying the cost of treatment, including surgeries, operations and diagnostic tests in the front office of all private hospitals. Patients can question the hospitals if they are charged more than the specified cost and complain to the DHO or KMC,” said Veeranna.

The state government also agreed to fix the treatment cost for Below Poverty Line (BPL) patients referred to private hospitals under its health scheme or covered under its health insurance.

“In the case of Above Poverty Line (APL) patients, the state government will bear only 30 per cent of the cost of the treatment in private hospitals and the remaining cost has to be borne by them. No price capping on other or private patients,” noted Veeranna.

Thousands of patients across the state were affected as hundreds of private hospitals shut their Out Patient Departments (OPDs) on Thursday again against the stringent provisions in the amendment bill. The OPDs were also shut on November 3.

On the advice of the court on Thursday, the OPDs were reopened on Friday.

In a related development, the doctors have also called off their relay hunger strike at Belagavi, about 500km from Bengaluru, where the 10-day winter session of the state legislature began on Monday to address the issues of people in the state’s northern region.


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