The controversial Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) (KPME) Bill, 2017 was tabled before the assembly on Tuesday.
Following massive protests by private medical practitioners in the state, the government was compelled to make amendments to the proposals. Controversial clauses have been dropped from the bill prompting activists to call it "toothless".
A strong bill that aimed at making private medical practitioners accountable has been watered down after private doctors arm-twisted the government, activists allege. In the new bill, the proposal to imprison doctors in case of wrong diagnosis or criminal negligence has been dropped. Instead, the bill now proposes "penalty" and "suspension".
The clause to set up a grievance redressal cell has been diluted by clubbing the cell with an already existing Registration committee at every district headed by the District Commissioner. Price capping for medical procedures, touted as the most people-friendly aspect of the bill has been limited only to patients covered under government insurance schemes.
"The bill is like a toothless tiger now. Making doctors accountable and protecting patients was supposed to be the purpose of the bill but the same hasn't been addressed anywhere in the legislation. What about criminal neglect and negligence? Doctors should go back to basic ethics. Patient rights are being traded off for commercial purposes and this is letting down the ethos of medical profession and patients," said
E Premdas Pinto, Advocate and public health researcher.
Private doctors, however, disagree. "The bill is addressing the concerns of the doctors and if passed with the current amendments, a large number of hospitals will open up to help patients and support the government with its universal health scheme. This is a win-win situation for doctors, private hospitals, and patients. This will go a long way in making Karnataka the model state for health care," said Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal hospital.
Amendments made in the KPME Bill, 2017
- Reconstitute the Registration and Grievance Redressal Authority
- Enhance transparency in display of rates by private medical establishments
- Empower state government to fix uniform package rates for treatment and price under assurance schemes of the government
- specify Patient's charter and Private Medical Establishment's Charter in the schedule to the Private Medical Establishment Act
- Provide for levy of monetary penalty in case of non-compliance to the Patient's charter or Private Medical Establishment charter
- Remove imprisonment provisions in case of violation of section 12 and 13
- Provide emergency treatment as per the need without insisting on payment of advance from patient or representative of patient in specified cases
- Handover body of deceased patient to his(/her) representative without insisting on prior payment of the dues
- Enhance certain monetary penalties leviable under section 19
The bill that was tabled on Tuesday will be taken up for discussion on Wednesday in the Karnataka assembly. The Siddaramaiah government agreed to make changes to the bill that was approved by the cabinet after private doctors refrained from treating patients en masse earlier this month.