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Private Hospitals Shut OPD Services in Karnataka in Protest Against Proposed Law

Over 60,000 doctors did not turn up for OPD work, though other services in private hospitals like cardiology, emergency and gynaecology remained unaffected.

Stacy Pereira | CNN-News18

Updated:November 3, 2017, 9:44 PM IST
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Private Hospitals Shut OPD Services in Karnataka in Protest Against Proposed Law
Representative image.
Bengaluru: The Karnataka unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) shut down out-Patient services for the day on Friday in private hospitals across the state in protesting a proposed law that, doctors say, curbs their freedom.

Over 60,000 doctors did not turn up for OPD work, though other services in private hospitals like cardiology, emergency and gynaecology remained unaffected.

The new law – the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment (Amendment) Bill – is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the state assembly on November 13. It seeks to hike the penalties levied on doctors in case of malpractice, to the extent of imprisonment.

Doctors claim that the Bill has certain provisions which will make it difficult for them to continue their practice fairly. "For the first time, we will not be able to defend ourselves or even present our case through a lawyer in front of this new district grievance cell, if this Act comes to place," said Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya.

Another provision of the act also looks to regulate the fees collected at private hospital for various medical services.

The government had earlier said that the Bill seeks to regulate the amount of money charged in various hospitals, as some charge exorbitant amounts for routine procedures – it wanted to make the costing more transparent.

"The government wants to keep a check on the increasing cost in private health care but they should do this after coming to a common consensus. We should continue to have a dialogue with the government for the benefit of the common man,” said Dr H Sudharshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospital.

In view of the strike, the state government issued a circular instructing district heads of family welfare and primary health care centres to be prepared to work to full strength. Even leaves of doctors and paramedical staff was cancelled for the day.

The government is unmoved by the strike. State health minister Ramesh Kumar said, "I do not know why they are protesting. Nobody spoke to us. Before we sent the Bill to the Joint Committee, their opinions were taken in. We wanted action against medical institutions, not against doctors. Both issues are different, it has nothing to do with doctors. They can protest, they have every right."

Services were affected in about 45,000 private hospitals / clinics across the state for 24 hours. They will resume from tomorrow. "If the government refuses to consider our demands, we will take up another forms of protest – we may even quit our profession" said Dr. B Veeanna, Secretary of IMA Karnataka.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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