Belagavi (Karnataka), Nov 16 (IANS) Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday staged a walkout in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly protesting against the state government’s “indifference” to the statewide private doctors’ strike.
The agitating doctors have also been on a relay hunger strike here since Monday against the stringent provisions in the amendment bill to the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Act on regulating the functioning of private hospitals in the state.
Accusing state Health and Family Welfare Minister K.R. Ramesh Kumar of being “stubborn” on wanting to pass the amendment bill without any change in the provisions, opposition leader and BJP lawmaker Jagadish Shetter termed the state government’s stand on the doctors’ strike as “irresponsible”.
“The state government should holds talks with the private doctors on their demands at the earliest, as thousands of patients are severely affected by the strike in the state,” urged Shettar before the walkout along with other BJP lawmakers.
The 10-day winter session of the state legislature is being held at Suvarna Soudha since Monday in the state’s northern town here, about 500 km from Bengaluru.
“Why are you making this (doctors’ strike) a prestige issue? A transport strike can result in change of travel plans, a strike by advocates can result in postponement of cases, but a strike by doctors is entirely different. Why is the government failing to understand the gravity of the issue?” said Shettar.
Refuting the opposition charge against him, Kumar said the state government was ready for talks with the private doctors on the provisions in the amendment bill.
“We are not passing the amendment bill to send the private doctors to jail, as its provisions are to protect patients and in the interests of the people in the state. The government is ready for talks with the doctors,” Kumar told the lawmakers.
In a series of tweets earlier in the day, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the BJP was being “opportunistic” and “encouraging” the private doctors to continue with their strike.
“Opposition parties are being opportunistic and encouraging doctors to continue the strike. (BJP leader) B.S. Yeddyurappa has even promised to repeal the KPME Act. If he wants to stand against the poor and needy patients, that is his choice,” said the Chief Minister in a tweet on Thursday.
“The state government wants to amend the KPME Act, 2007 to provide a grievances redressal mechanism to patients and regulate the cost of treatment in the private hospitals in the state,” said Siddaramaiah in another tweet.
The main demands of the striking doctors on the amendment bill are: inclusion of government doctors under the KPME Act, no grievances redressal committees, no penalty on erring doctors or their imprisonment for the death of a patient due to medical negligence and ceiling on cost of treatment should be applicable to only government health schemes under which eligible patients are treated in private hospitals.
Of the registered 1.25 lakh doctors in the state, only about 10,000 work in the state-run hospitals, while over a lakh are employed in about 40,000 private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics across the state.
A BJP lawmaker (C.T. Ravi) charged that the differences between the Chief Minister and the Health Minister over the amendment bill were costing the patients dear.
“The Chief Minister is in favour of diluting the provisions of the bill, while the Health Minister is against it,” Ravi said, adding the government could have taken steps to bring doctors from outside the state to ensure patients did not suffer.
Another BJP legislator (V.H. Kageri) demanded the state government should defer tabling the revised version of the amendment bill so that the striking doctors could report back to duty.
Making a suo motu statement in the House, Assembly Speaker K.B. Koliwad appealed to the state government to find a solution to the amendment bill at the earliest.
“Reports on patients suffering due to the doctors’ strike has saddened me. The state government should hold talks with the protesting doctors and resolve the issue. At the same time, the doctors should resume duty on humanitarian grounds,” Koliwad reiterated.
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