Bengaluru: At least 22,000 doctors from Bengaluru will go on an indefinite strike starting Thursday morning demanding dropping of at least four contentious proposals (out of the proposed 14) in the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (amendment) Bill 2017—an amendment to the original Act of 2007.
The doctors from Bengaluru will join their colleagues from at least 14 other districts already protesting against the Bill which proposes to introduce prison terms, higher penalties, more grievance cells on private medical establishments and practitioners as well as price control on medical procedures among other provisions.
The strike goes against Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah’s grand plans to add healthcare (Aarogya Bhagya-Universal Health Care) to his long list of populist schemes—mostly around food security in the ‘Bhagya’ series of schemes—targeted at socially and economically weaker sections, hoping to win their support ahead of next years assembly elections.
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“More than 22,000 doctors, more than 600 hospitals, all the clinics have unanimously decided to shut down their OPD (outpatient department) services and elective surgeries and the services which are routinely conducted," Dr C.Jayanna, president elect of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) said on Wednesday.
However, the associations stated that emergency services, dialysis, chemotherapy, radio therapy and other emergency services will continue to function.
At least 50,000 doctors from across Karnataka had ‘abstained from duties’ for 24 hours on 3 November against the bill, which was described by various private medical establishment associations including the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Karnataka chapter, as “regressive".
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The doctors strike and inconvenience caused to the public had given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) more ammunition to attack the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the ongoing winter session of the state legislature in Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi (formerly Belgaum)—about 500 km from Bengaluru.
The KPME (amendment) bill 2017 along with other contentious issues including demands to sack Bengaluru district in charge minister K.J.George have been the highlights of the ongoing winter session that commenced on Monday.
The association blamed Karnataka health minister Ramesh Kumar for the standoff and alleged that the doctors were taking the step as they were “pushed to the wall" and left with no option.
The doctors associations also deny that they could be held responsible for the deaths of at least six people (due to non availability of private establishments) in the last few days, according to multiple media reports.
“We sympathize, (but) we do not agree (that deaths were caused due to the strike). It is not our intention to put anybody into trouble, that is why we are saying that we will continue with emergency services. Unfortunately some instances have come. These patients have maybe gone to certain centres with a critical illness, which the centre itself will not be able to handle. What would have happened on an everyday, has happened today also. I think it has been exaggerated," Dr Madan. S. Gaekwad, president of the PHANA said on Wednesday.