BENGALURU: Indian Medical Association (IMA) has called for a shut down of private hospitals across Karnataka on November 3 to condemn the proposed amendments to Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act. A delegation of doctors will be meeting Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at his official residence on November 2 to discuss their grievances. It is unclear how many hospitals and clinics will participate in the strike, and if the government will invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if patients are turned away. Health Minister KR Ramesh Kumar told Express, “It is a democracy and everyone is free to protest. I will defend myself on the floor of the House. I would not like to comment on the protest now.”
A joint select committee was set up after private medical establishments protested over the stringent rules under the amended KPME Bill, 2017, which was tabled in the legislature in June. The committee submitted its final report to Legislative Assembly Speaker K.B. Koliwad in the first week of October.
According to a draft of the rephrased Bill, inconsequential of the committee’s recommendations, no changes demanded by the protesting private medical establishments have been incorporated into the final Bill.
For example, while the amended Bill said expert committees will fix cost of health services and treatment procedures for different classes of private medical establishments, the redrafted copy says the rates shall be uniform throughout the State. Only, hospital charges will be fixed based on location and infrastructure it provides. The redrafted Bill is set to be tabled in the Belagavi winter session of the legislature that will begin on November 13. Former president of the IMA, Dr Rajashekar Bellary said, “All 177 IMA branches across the state have been informed of the decision to shut shop on Friday.” Asked whether the state health department had been informed of the same, he said private hospitals do not require permission to do so.
There are 400 hospitals which are a part of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) which is headed by Sagar Hospital vice president Dr Madan Gaekwad. He told Express, “On Wednesday, we will take a call on whether to shut the hospitals. We have called for a meeting of all members.”
Dr Murali Srinivasan, head of clinical services, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, said that no patient will be turned away on Friday. When Express contacted major corporate hospitals like Narayana Health, Fortis and Mallya, they refused to comment on whether they will participate in the strike. Apollo hospital medical superintendent Govindaiah Yatheesh said, “We are not running out-patient departments on November 3 but we will run our emergency services.” Fortis has four hospitals in city.There was no response from the state health commissioner Manoj Kumar Meena or Additional Chief Secretary, department of health and family welfare, Ajai Seth, on the protest.
In a press statement, IMA demanded to drop amendments made in respect of constituting district grievance redressal committee, punishment for doctors in case of failure of treatment and charging fees. It said that they are ready to display the cost of each treatment but questioned how it would be appropriate for the government to decide the revision of treatment cost.“If the proposed amendments are brought in, it will be a death trap to small and medium-sized hospitals,” the statement said.