BENGALURU: Around 8000 private doctors from various districts of Karnataka, including Bengaluru, on Friday protested against the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017 here.
They marched from Bengaluru City railway station to Freedom Park, calling the policy unconstitutional. Medical services were hit in parts of the State but doctors claimed that patients in Bengaluru were unaffected.
Dr Nagendra Swamy, member of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association said, "It's unconstitutional for the government to fix prices. A private clinic, a small hospital or a big hospital should be free to fix the price they want based on the skilled services they provide. When no other sector is regulated in terms of price - for example, lawyers charge exorbitant fees - why is the healthcare sector singled out?"
He also said that the patients' charter l, envisaged in the Bill, should be no more than a set of guidelines and not legally binding. Why should it be an Act? It can be misused. Tomorrow, anyone who is not happy with the doctor will start seeking the doctor's imprisonment, said Dr Swamy.
The doctors also disagreed with the setting up of a district grievance redressal committee as per the Bill. "When there are so many fora such as the Karnataka medical council, State human rights commission, civil courts and criminal courts, why should they have another one? This is just superfluous," he said.
Nursing homes in Hubballi saw doctors attending only to emergency cases. All the out patient departments (OPD) at private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics were shut following a call given by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Karnataka branch.
Hubballi has 850 doctors who have an IMA membership and has over 100 nursing homes and hospitals. Dharwad has 350 doctors with an IMA membership.
A majority of the hospitals displayed boards saying that OPD services were not available while some hospitals had no patients at all.
Meanwhile, the situation at urban primary health centres and government hospitals like KIMS was different. KIMS deployed at least 12 doctors, including juniors, at every OPD due to the heavy rush.
KIMS Director Dr DD Bant said that the rush at the OPD was high compared to other days. The exact number of patients availing services will be known on Saturday.
Dr Sudarshan Ballal, chairman, Manipal Hospital said that people who were not on a shift are the only ones protesting, and patient services at the Manipal group were not affected.
70 per cent of healthcare is provided by private hospitals. We need to work with the government to arrive at an amicable solution instead of having one regulate the other, Dr Ballal said.
Karnataka Janarogya Chaluvali convenor, Akhila Vasan said that the doctors’ fears are unfounded. "There will be a classification for each hospital and clinic. Prices will be fixed based on that. And the committee that fixes the prices will have doctors from the private sector."
As per the Bill, a committee will be set up to fix prices of bed charges, operation theatre procedure, intensive care, ventilation, implants, and consultation. It will have members from both private and government sectors.