The five-day strike by doctors that had resulted in 69 deaths in the State has been called off after the Karnataka High Court pulled the protesting doctors and even the government decided to bring in some changes. The two-and-half-hour long meeting between the government and the office-bearers of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) was fruitful with both the sides bending a little to accommodate, reports Kannada Prabha.
The State government and the IMA has come to a consensus on reducing the power of the district committee restricting it to a complaint receiving committee and resting the power to investigate and punish MCA, State government can fix the fees for only government health projects, and the non-existing jail term not to be raked up. Both the parties have agreed to present the bill taking these three major aspects into consideration.
Before the final decision, a strong debate ensued between the government and Dr Ravindra, president of IMA and other representatives of medical associations. The doctors were strongly opposed to the jail clause and to present themselves before a district committee for inquiry. The Health Minister Ramesh Kumar explained the facts of the bill and convinced the doctors. Other ministers Sharan Prakash Patil, TB Jayachandra, MB Patil and others supported him.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the government will consider the objections raised by the doctors and also impressed upon them that there are no negative aspects as propagated by the media. The misunderstanding was the result of failing to read the bill. The government is committed to safeguarding the interests of both poor patients as well as the doctors. The public are angry about the misunderstanding. Hence doctors should call off the strike and get back to service, he appealed.
At this juncture, Ramesh Kumar became emotional and pleaded if doctors are not answerable for public, the government cannot have the same attitude. People come banging at our doors not at your (doctors’) doors. "Despite our best efforts to make you understand you are adamant in not understanding it and are firm on painting the government black," he charged at the doctors.
The government aims at providing medical treatment affordable to poor people. The government is spending hundreds of crores on medical aid to poor and it should reach them. The district-level committees will have doctors’ representation and the government does not aim at penalising anybody. "Our intention is to make the system transparent," he said.
Responding to this, Dr Ravindra said already the public opinion about doctors has changed. If imprisonment is implemented that doctors will spend more time attending court than treating patients. This will also make doctors morally degraded and in future the doctors will be more worried about safeguarding their personal interests than saving the patients, which will deliver a strong blow to the professional ethics.
Replying to this, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said "No government will want to punish the doctors without any rhyme or reason. We are not bringing such an Act. The doctors are speculating. On Monday the bill will be placed and you will understand that the Act will be implemented keeping the interests of the doctors also in mind," he said.
Dr Ajay Kumar, Karnataka Range president of Association of Health Care Providers said "We are happy the government has responded to the demands of the doctors. Private hospitals are paying taxes and the quality of government hospitals has to be improved." Dr Sudarshana Ballal of Manipal Hospital said the government has responded positively to our demands. The fact that Chief Minister took personal interest in this issue is heartening. We have been assured that the bill will safeguard the interests of the private hospitals.
Meanwhile, the State government will look into the feasibility of granting compensation to the families of those who have died due to non-availability of medical treatment. All death cases reported during the strike period will be investigated and the cause of death will be determined, Chief Minister assured.