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Karnataka assembly passes ‘diluted’ medical bill after doctors’ protest

An earlier clause about fixation of fees by the government for various medical procedures in the private hospitals has been dropped.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2017 10:07 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka assembly,Karnataka medical bill,Doctors strike
Doctors protests forced government to drop various controversial clauses from the medical bill that seeks to regulate private health care sector (HT File Photo)

The Karnataka assembly on Wednesday passed a watered-down version of a medical bill that seeks to regulate the private healthcare sector, which had run into controversy after doctors and private hospitals went on a strike last week.

“The bill that was introduced on Tuesday was passed by the assembly without changes,” additional chief secretary Ajay Seth said.

The Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which will be taken up by the legislative council on Thursday, was introduced after making certain changes from its earlier version that drew the ire of the doctors and private hospitals.

An earlier clause about fixation of fees by the government that can be collected by private hospitals from patients for various medical procedures has been dropped.

The new version of the bill suggests setting up an experts committee to fix prices for certain procedures covered under state-sponsored health insurance schemes. This was one of the major demands of the striking doctors and hospitals.

Another crucial demand of the protesting doctors was the removal of a clause in the amendment bill that mandated imprisonment of doctors for malpractice. The new bill has changed this to penalties, with suspension for repeat offenders.

The changes were made as per an amicable settlement the government and the striking doctors had reached that led to the withdrawal of the doctors’ strike on 17 November.

It has also dropped the idea of setting up a separate grievance redressal authority and instead has entrusted the responsibility to the reconstituted registration and grievance redressal authority, which will have a representative from the Indian Medical Association. Additionally, the bill also makes the authority the only forum for patients to go with their grievances.

Welcoming the bill, Dr C Jayanna, president-elect of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said, “In the larger interest of the public of Karnataka this is a progressive bill.”

“We are pleased that the government has addressed some concerns we had regarding the earlier bill,” Dr Jayanna said. “For example, now there will be a single-window that patients can approach for getting their grievances redressed. It will ensure doctors and private hospitals do not have to run from pillar to post.”

However, public health activists slammed the bill, calling it a disappointment compared to the earlier versions. E Premdas Pinto, director of research and advocacy at Centre for Health and Social Justice, said: “This is a great let down for the people. It is a complete surrender by the government to the private sector lobby.”

Pinto said the bill was regressive because it took away existing rights of patients like the right to approach the court or other forums to redress grievances. “How can the government deny the right to approach existing forums for patients,” Pinto said.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 10:07 IST