Doctors' Protests Won't Stop Bill to Regulate Private Hospitals, Says Karnataka Health Minister
Ramesh Kumar pressed for the need to bring in the changes that restrict over-pricing as well as neglect by doctors and private hospitals.
Doctors and healthcare professionals during a protest march against the proposed amendments to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act, 2007 in Bengaluru. (Image: PTI)
Bengaluru: Rising in strong defence of the new Bill to rein in private medical establishments, the Karnataka Health Minister, Ramesh Kumar, on Tuesday pressed for the need to bring in the changes that restrict over-pricing as well as neglect by doctors and private hospitals.
The minister said the controversial amendments to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act would go forward despite opposition from the India Medical Association and the medical fraternity in the state. However, he conceded that the more stringent provisions, including the six-month jail term, may be reconsidered.
Launching a scathing attack on those who called the bill draconian, the minister said the Bill protects the interests of patients and common man. “As a public representative, it is the interests of the people that I represent. If not, what is the use of the Assembly or the government”, the minister remarked.
His speech in the Legislature came after protests by over a thousand doctors last week against the proposed new law.
Under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017, tabled in the Legislative Assembly last Tuesday, the government will fix rates for procedures in private hospitals, set up grievance redressal cells, prohibit any additional charges and any advance payment in case of an emergency.
Critics of the Bill say that if passed, the new rules will enable the government to regulate functioning of private hospitals in all aspects. Another bone of contention is that government hospitals have been kept out of the purview of the Bill.
Narrating the many malpractices in the medical profession, the Health Minister said hospitals charge exorbitant rates without the knowledge of the patient. He gave the example of generic medicines, which he said are supplied by the state government at a much cheaper rate than branded drugs.
“The difference is sometimes more than 80%. But if I speak up about it, they say he is interfering,” said Kumar.
“Overpricing is a common phenomenon. For a stent which costs Rs. 50,000, private hospitals charge Rs 2 lakh. And most of the time, the patients are unaware of it. The situation is so grave that even the insurance companies have blacklisted 337 hospitals for inflating bills,” the minister told the Assembly.
Highlighting the case of the Indian Cancer Hospital which had raised bills from the government for dead patients for many government schemes, Ramesh Kumar wondered why the Indian Medical Association has not taken any action against them.
A visibly upset Kumar went on to narrate many anecdotes from his tours and inspections wherein apathy on the part of doctors and private hospitals resulted in immense pain to common man.
Kumar said the doctors opposing the bill are being misled by medical establishments. The bill is not against individual doctors but intends to hold establishments accountable, he said.
“We will go ahead with the bill despite opposition. There is a suggestion from the Chief Minister to remove the six month jail term. And few other suggestions are taken into. But the bill will be passed” he informed.
The bill has not yet been passed. It has been referred to a joint house committee to come up with recommendations within four to five weeks.
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