Karnataka Health Minister Ramesh Kumar on Thursday said that state government was ready to hold talks with agitating doctors opposing a proposed bill aimed at regulating private health care and will try to find a solution to the issue.
He was replying to the opposition BJP, which raised the issue of doctors’ protest and reported deaths of several patients across the state, in the Assembly even as the medical practitioners intensified their stir in private hospitals and clinics.
Upping their ante, the doctors affiliated to five medical bodies in the city had yesterday announced the shutdown of out-patient services till the government dropped its move, which they alleged was “detrimental” to the medical profession.
The BJP accused Kumar of taking it as a “prestige issue”, instead of trying to find a solution to the issue amicably, through discussion.
The minister said that it was not a prestige issue for him. It was doctors who have taken it as a prestige issue, as they have called for a statewide agitation, when the bill is yet to be tabled, he said.
“We will try to find solution soon, we are open for discussion with doctors. I will be meeting the chief minister on the issue,” Kumar said.
Unhappy with the minister’s response, BJP members walked out of the House demanding immediate resolution even as they claimed that the delay may cause more deaths of patients.
Health services in the state are hit as doctors across the Karnataka have shut down their clinics and outpatient services in private hospitals against the proposed ‘Karnataka Private Medical Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2017′ that is likely to be tabled during the ongoing winter session.
The proposed amendment bill intends to make private doctors accountable and recommends stringent action for their negligence, and fix the rates for each class of treatment.
The doctors are opposing the proposed amendment bill, saying it is detrimental to the medical profession.
As soon as the House met for the day, BJP MLAs C T Ravi and Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri raised the issue and demanded reply from the government and questioned,”how many more deaths do you want?”
Speaker K B Koliwad said he will give permission during the Zero Hour.
Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, opposition leader Jagadish Shettar referred to the shutdown of out-patient services and 25 reported deaths because of lack of health care services due to the strike.
Questioning the government about the precautions being taken to deal with the situation, he said “The government has to be serious. Call meeting with Doctors and talk to them and convince them to go to go back hospital…”
Asking Kumar not to take the issue as a “prestige issue”, Shettar said that answering the needs of the people concerning their health was even more important.
BJP leader Ravi asked whether the government can bring back to life those dead. His party colleague Kageri cited reports about Kumar threatening to resign as minister if the Bill was tweaked or not tabled during the session and said the Minister has also put the chief minister in a “fix”.
Intervening, Speaker Koliwad said reports about deaths due to doctors’ strike was “painful” and the issue has to be resolved immediately. The minister said, “deaths are painful…every life is precious…”
Noting that the amendment bill was proposed intending for larger public good, he said “the bill is yet to be tabled, they (doctors) have taken such a strong stand…. who has taken it as a prestige issue? I’m a common man, what kind of prestige will I have in this issue.”
Kumar said that doctors have the responsibility, and by shutting medical services they are making the common man suffer.
He stated that the government has no intention to harass doctors or the private medical institutions. “As we empanelled you and we have to pay you tax payers money for services, we have to fix charges for services…,” the minister said.
Kumar said he has no plans to resign if the Bill was not tabled during the session as reported by some sections of the media.
The Bill was first tabled in the assembly on June 13, and it was later sent to the joint select committee, following opposition by doctors and medical professionals. Health services had been hit in Karnataka twice earlier this month as private hospitals and nursing homes failed to function following protests against the proposed amendments.