Congress MLAs favour diluting medical bill; health minister threatens to quit

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Out-patient service in private hospitals and clinics across Karnataka were affected on Monday as some 50,000 private doctors went on strike.

Meanwhile, the doctors are still adamant about their demand and have continued their strike leaving hundreds of patients at their risk.

More than 40,000 doctors from various medical hospitals associated with private hospital association and Indian medical association have been protesting during the Belgavi session. But with three people dead because of the unannounced strike, it remains to be seen if the state can face a full-fledged private doctors' strike.

The private hospitals had very few doctors on duty to look after in-patients and for emergency services.

The protest was started on the first day of the 10-day winter session of Karnataka Legislature, which began on Monday.

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While health minister KR Ramesh Kumar has reportedly threatened to quit if the assembly fails to favour the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment Bill, 2017 in its original form, his party MLAs are mounting pressure on chief minister Siddaramaiah to dilute the legislation by dropping stringent provisions, including capping of prices, jail term and penalty for erring doctors.

As the controversial bill to regulate private hospitals is set for a debate and voting in the assembly after it was tabled on Tuesday, the ruling Congress seems to be in a Catch-22 situation. "The government is contemplating restrictions on private nursing homes which charge the poor exorbitantly".

According to IMA's Karnataka Chapter President H.N. Ravindra, almost 76 per cent of patients under the government health schemes are refereed to private hospitals or clinics, as state-run hospitals lack expertise and facilities to treat them for various diseases. "We hope the government will meet our demands as even the opposition BJP and JD-S have supported us", stated Veeranna.

Siddaramaiah also told them that there was no need to harbour any fear about the proposed bill and that the government has not drafted it with an intention to trouble the doctors.

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