Doctors protesting the proposed amendments to an act aimed at making them accountable for medical negligence on Friday ended their indefinite strike, which had crippled health services in private hospitals and nursing homes, after an agreement with the government.
The decision to call off the strike was taken at a meeting between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and representatives of doctors, who had intensified the stir yesterday, declaring it to be indefinite. The Karnataka High Court also passed an interim order directing the agitating private doctors to restore forthwith their medical services. A Division Bench comprising acting Chief Justice H G Ramesh and Justice P S Dinesh Kumar observed that basic medical services are a right to life for every citizen and disobeying its order will amount to violation of court order.
The doctors were up in arms against the amendments to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act, 2007, which among others propose six months to three years jail term and hefty penalty for medical negligence on the part of doctors.
Addressing a joint press conference in the presence of Siddaramaiah and state Health Minister Ramesh Kumar at Belagavi, the Indian Medical Association’s Karnataka chapter president H N Ravindra said the government had addressed the concerns of the doctors on contentious issues before tabling the amendments. “We had detailed discussions on touchy issues. Finally, there is a happy ending to the doctors” strike. We are grateful to the chief minister and health minister. We announce calling off our strike,” Ravindra, who was on an indefinite hunger strike for the past three days at Belagavi, said.
He also owned responsibility for the deaths that happened due to the doctors’ strike and sought pardon from the people. Ravindra said the fear among the doctors was for real. He, however, did not elaborate on the settlement the doctors and government arrived at. Siddaramaiah said the government would make changes in the draft bill as was decided in the meeting and the same will be tabled in the Assembly on Monday. Ramesh Kumar said the amendment was planned as the KPME Act had not yielded the desired result. “People used to come to us with complaints against the private hospitals and nursing homes. As a responsible and pro-people government, we had to respond to it. In this context we thought of introducing the amendment,” he said.
Sudarshan Balal, who attended the meeting as part of the IMA delegation, said the government has agreed to remove the clause of imprisonment and hefty penalty from the bill. Stating that a common man’s interest had been kept in mind, Siddaramaiah said “I’m making it very clear, there were some doubts and fear that doctors had regarding the bill. That has been cleared. Complete justice will be done to common man.”
Asked about reported deaths due to the doctor’s strike, the Karnataka chief minister questioned whether there was any proof that they died because of the strike. “If there is any such cases we will look into and examine it,” he said. Doctors affiliated to five medical bodies had announced the shutdown of out-patient departments (OPD) services till the government dropped its move.
A section of doctors had withdrawn the strike yesterday. Health services in private hospitals and nursing homes were hit twice in the last two weeks by the strikes of doctors who alleged that the proposed changes, which among others provide for jail term for medical negligence, were “draconian” in nature.