Agitating doctors of private hospitals in Karnataka called off their strike on Friday after government agreed to make certain amendments to a contentious medical bill that seeks to regulate the health sector and cap prices of treatment.
The development comes soon after the Karnataka high court passed an interim order, directing the agitating doctors to immediately resume their medical services and participate in the talks convened by chief minister Siddaramaiah in Belagavi to discuss their concerns.
Addressing the media in Belagavi, Siddaramaiah said there were certain concerns of doctors and private hospitals that were addressed at the meeting.
He said the government will now table the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill (KPME) 2017, in the assembly on Monday after making a few changes.
“We will bring a bill that will not cause inconvenience either to doctors or poor people,” he said.
More than 20,000 doctors went on a strike and 6,000 private medical establishments, barring emergency services, were shut on Thursday in protest against the proposed bill that would define how private hospitals function and how much they can charge for services.
While the chief minister did not specify the changes to be made in the bill, Dr C Jayanna, president-elect of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association said the government clarified that the proposed price caps would only be applicable for procedures conducted on BPL cardholders.
“It was clarified that there would be no universal price cap, but only for certain procedures for BPL cardholders covered by government insurance schemes,” he said, emerging from the meeting.
The earlier version of the bill had said that an expert committee would be formed which would recommend “fixation of cost of each health service or treatment and different rates may be proposed for different class of private medical establishments”.
Incidentally, capping of prices for procedures conducted on BPL patients exists already under various insurance schemes run by the state government.
Another contentious provision for the formation of a new district grievance redressal committee too has been scrapped, Dr Jayanna said.
He said the meeting decided to allow the existing district registration committees, headed by deputy commissioner of the respective district to redress grievances.
“Additionally, cases of medical negligence will be heard by the Karnataka Medical Council and criminal cases will fall within the purview of the existing laws,” Dr Jayanna said. “We will wait for the bill to be tabled to see if our concerns are addressed,” he added.
However, the health minister, who had staked his reputation on the passage of the bill, continued to strike a defiant note. “I will try to ensure that the Bill is tabled in the assembly without much change,” he said, while addressing the media in Belagavi.
Kumar said doctors had been misled and that “there was already a law in this regard, and we only tried to bring some changes”.
Earlier in the day, a high court bench comprising acting chief justice HG Ramesh and Dinesh Kumar observed that doctors could not be insensitive to the plight of patients.
The bench said that doctors could always approach the court if they had any grievance, adding people have right to treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, there was also a demonstration in the state capital in support of the proposed bill. Civil society organisations gathering outside the town hall appealed to protesting doctors to consider the plight of patients.
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