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Why are doctors in Karnataka up in arms against the state government?

The bill, first tabled in the legislative assembly on June 13, 2017, was then referred to a joint House committee to address the doctors’ concerns.

Written by Johnson T A | Updated: November 7, 2017 10:08 am
karnataka doctors, karnataka govt, karnataka doctors strike, Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Amendment Bill With the committee having submitted its report, suggesting dilution of some of the more stringent clauses, the private doctors fear that the state legislature will pass the bill this month. (Representational photo)

Why did over 40,000 doctors refuse to report for out patient duties on November 3?

The doctors are opposing the Congress government’s decision to introduce a law to regulate the functioning of private hospitals. The Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017 — modelled on the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Act, 2017 — prescribes fixed prices for treatment and makes those doctors who charge excess fees, liable for stringent punishment. The bill, first tabled in the legislative assembly on June 13, 2017, was then referred to a joint House committee to address the doctors’ concerns. With the committee having submitted its report, suggesting dilution of some of the more stringent clauses, the private doctors fear that the state legislature will pass the bill this month.

What are the contentious clauses ?

The punishment — ranging from six month to three-year jail terms and fines of between Rs 25,000 and Rs 5 lakh — for violators of the fee and a condition that hospitals must hand over bodies to family members soon after a death, instead of holding on to them for payment of dues, are among the key clauses causing concern in the private medical community. Other provisions that the doctors oppose include one which has hiked the penalty for running a medical establishment without registration, from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5 lakh along with up to three years of imprisonment.

What are doctors and medical associations saying about the bill?

The Indian Medical Association’s Karnataka unit president H N Ravindra and other senior doctors in the state have described the proposed law as being “draconian.” Private hospitals are also demanding that the state focus on lifting the standards of care at government hospitals before attempting to regulate their establishments. Doctors point out that a commission headed by the former Karnataka chief justice Vikramjit Sen — on whose recommendations in April this year hospitals are being regulated — had stated that government hospitals should be brought on par with private hospitals before embarking on the fixing of prices for medical treatment.

What is the political position in the state on the bill?

While the bill has been strongly backed by Health Minister K R Ramesh Kumar, it has led to divisions within the Congress, since many ministers and party leaders run medical colleges and hospitals in the state. Congress legislators have also questioned the health minister over the raking up of a controversy in the run up to the state polls. The opposition BJP has opposed the bill, supporting the stand of private doctors and hospitals. The BJP members, who were part of the joint house committee reviewing the bill, had boycotted its sittings on the grounds that their views were not being accommodated.

What are the health ministry’s arguments in favour of legislation?

According to the health minister, the bill has been conceived after due consultation with the hospitals by the Justice Vikramajit Sen commission. Kumar has also stated that the state government has paid the 250-odd private hospitals in Karnataka over Rs 1,000 crore through various health schemes since 2003. “As the person paying these bills should I not know the costs? As many as 12 insurance companies have complained about overcharging by hospitals. The private hospitals want to ensure that the bill is not passed,” he has said.

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  1. C
    concerned citizen
    Nov 17, 2017 at 12:02 pm
    Before everyone gets emotional about the bill, pls rethink practically. A pvt hospital is set up by their own money or on loan. The equipments / staff/ infrastructure everything has to be provided which comes at a cost. After setting up the hospital, there will be recurring costs like electricity bills, sanitation bills, corporation bills, varied taxes. The Govt does not give any form of subsidy to pvt hospitals to run. The hospitals have to pay taxes as any other commercial mall. They get electricity at commercial rates. Not subsidized domestic / farming rate. The government has categorized private hospitals as commercial establishments. All doctors and hospital have accepted the previous KPME act of 2007. All pvt hospitals are already registered and can be checked by the DHO of the district anytime.No body opposed ACT of 2007. The current amendments can have drastic outcomes in the long run.If they cannot sustain on price capping they will close down. Good luck with the govt hosp
    1. S
      Dec 2, 2017 at 5:32 pm
      But also, hospitals have a special position due to assymetry of info. b/w the patient and doctors. Someone can refuse a vehicle which is out of budget but once admitted (or if there's no other better hospital around), you may sell everything you have to get treated as the hospitals thinks best. Under monetary pressures and enticement to earn more and more (may be to spread hospital chain further), they may extract excessively from patients who are almost in no position to challenge the hospital. Here, only the govt. can become a saviour. But ,yes even govt. could unfairly target hospitals. There has to be a balance and finally state funded healthcare with affordable insurance at least for the poor. Note that healthcare costs are one of the biggest reasons for people falling back into poverty. So it's not about being emotion but being practical too!
    2. S
      Nov 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm
      Awesome step by karnataka govt. These hospitals and money sucking doctors should be punished more. The same thing should happen to schools as well. I completely support
      1. M
        Nov 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm
        I support Bill, which Will definitely help POOR people, who can get better medical facilities at affordable prices...
        1. R
          Nov 9, 2017 at 1:57 am
          Bcz of thse politicians r not able to imorove the standards in Govt hospitals blaming private prac ioners and trying to spoil the existing healthy and pure profession... better to say shameless political action by health minister..
          1. B
            Nov 7, 2017 at 11:58 am
            why people go to a pvt hospital when there is a govt hospital? Quality, trust, no govt hosp/ doc. Fix it. I have worked in England where govt hosp NHS is so good that the amount of pvt practice is just 1 . Dr Bala
            1. R
              Nov 7, 2017 at 3:46 pm
              Just because govt hospitals r bad, doesn't give license to Pvt hospitals to loot people in the name of better treatment
              1. B
                Nov 7, 2017 at 8:12 pm
                There are and will be black sheep's in any profession. Punish them but to denigrate the entire profession is wrong. If the bill is passed there will be hardly any small and medium hospitals left.
                1. V
                  Nov 16, 2017 at 10:01 am
                  If one feels that this hospital is costly he can always choose another hospital orca Govt hospital. Don't we choose between various hotels and restaurants acc to our pocket.
                  1. S
                    Nov 16, 2017 at 10:59 am
                    Vishal: So you mean to say Health too is dependent on Pocket size. This is the exact reason why there is such a push for the Bill. Do not put everything and anything in teh same basket. Every Life is meaningful and important in their own standard. People are not looking at Luxury or Comfort but are fighting for basic amenity.
                    1. A
                      Nov 16, 2017 at 4:41 pm
                      Vishal, choosing different restaurants is not at all related in choosing different hospitals. We goto restaurants for 1 or 2 hours but if a person gets admitted it is minimum 24 hours plus the family members should from home to hospital. There are so many tests done in hospital which is not necessary also, restaurants do not do testing before we order food. Example you have given a silly one. Hospitals have become business: when anybody has stomach ulcer and had the same thing 10years ago. Today, doctors says "do endoscopic" 10 years ago medicine was given and it was getting cured. Live example: My uncle had same problem of stomach ulcer and the doctor says get the liver transplant done. Isn't it crazt? The patient is well, is walking and not suffering that much like a patient in ICU does, how can the doctor say this? There are so many such examples.
                    2. M
                      Nov 15, 2017 at 6:48 pm
                      Why Most of Doctors in karnataka prefer Private Hospitals for their JOB. Even though Govt offers better ry, they won't choice govt doctor job. Most of them don't want to serve the people through government ins utions. But they want Earn money through Private Money making Ins utions called Private Hospitals... Really Bad...
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