Around 40,000 private hospitals and clinics remained closed on Friday as private doctors went on strike protesting against Karnataka's proposed amendments to a medical bill to fix costs for private hospitals and penalise doctors.
"Nearly 50,000 private doctors from across Karnataka will abstain from their duties on Friday against the amendments proposed to Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Bill 2017," the President of the Karnataka chapter of the Indian Medical Association Dr.H.N. Ravindra told IANS here.
The bill proposes regulation of costs in private hospitals, prohibiting the hospitals from levying any additional costs from those set by the government, setting up of a grievance redressal committee to look into any complaints against the private hospitals and penalising the doctors for any negligence in their work.
The state was proposing amendments to the KPME Act, 2007, through this new bill.
The bill is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the legislative assembly in November in Belagavi.
"If the government sets up a law this way, doctors are going to be extremely wary of taking up risky cases, as the bill even proposes imprisoning the doctors for up to three years and imposing a fine of Rs 5 lakh," Ravindra said.
With the Medical Council of India already laying down rules for the doctors and prohibiting them from practicing in case of any errors while treating a patient, the doctors' associations in the state have been against setting up another committee.
"Private hospitals are being treated as commercial entities by the state -- the electricity charges, water charges, everything we pay is at commercial rates and not subsidised, unlike in government hospitals. How can the state government, in such case, regulate costs in private hospitals?" Ravindra questioned.
Terming the bill "draconian", medical associations in the state have been demanding the removal of these amendments.
"If the state government wants to bring out a new medical law, then it has to include the government hospitals too, by which the government hospitals could also improve," Ravindra added.
Nearly 80 per cent of the patients opt for private hospitals for treatment in the state.
"We will be meeting all the medical associations in the state on November 5, after which we will decide our next action," he added.