Hundreds of private hospitals across Karnataka on Thursday shut their OPDs again as thousands of doctors intensified their strike against the penal provisions in the amendment bill to the KPME Act drafted by the government.
The four-day strike began on Tuesday. The OPDs were also shut on November 3.
"OPDs in all private hospitals have been shut as we have decided to continue our strike till the penal provisions are withdrawn," Karnataka Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) President-elect C. Jayanna told IANS here.
The private doctors, however, decided to continue to treat in-patients and attend emergency cases in their hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.
The state government had included stringent provisions in the amendment bill to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act 2007 to regulate the functioning of private hospitals, including their costs of treatment and redressing the grievances of their patients.
"Though a majority of our members are at Belagavi, where about 300 doctors are on relay hunger strike in batches since Tuesday, many senior members are on duty in private hospitals to treat in-patients, conduct emergency operations and provide dialysis and chemotherapy to cancer patients," said Jayanna.
Of the registered 1.25 lakh doctors in the state, only about 10,000 work in the state-run hospitals, while over a lakh are employed in about 40,000 private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.
"We have given an ultimatum to the government to withdraw the penal provisions even before tabling the amendment bill in the legislative assembly. Otherwise, all private hospitals will be shut down indefinitely," PHANA Executive Member Yeteesh told IANS here.
The private doctors are staging the hunger strike at Belagavi, about 500 km from Bengaluru, where the 10-day winter session of the legislature began on Monday.
The four main demands are inclusion of government doctors under the KPME Act, no grievances redressal committees, no penalty on erring doctors or their imprisonment for the death of any patient due to medical negligence and ceiling on cost of treatment only for government health schemes under which eligible patients are treated in private hospitals or clinics.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday appealed to the private doctors to withdraw their strike.
"I met a group of doctors at Belagavi and assured them that the government will hear them before the KPME Bill is introduced again. I appealed to them to withdraw their strike. Yet the strike is ongoing and continues to put people to inconvenience," he tweeted.
The amendments to the Bill are in "public interest" and the government was willing to address the concerns of the private hospitals and their doctors, the Chief Minister added.
According to Indian Medical Association's Karnataka Chapter President H.N. Ravindra, about 80 per cent of patients under the government health schemes are refereed to private hospitals or clinics as state-run hospitals lack expertise and facilities to treat them.