The health activists and social workers have come out openly to criticise the private medical establishment forum for rejecting the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments   Bill (KPME) and accused them of arm-twisting the government as many of the politicians have stakes in the private hospitals. They have now pitched to place the recommendations before a  joint select committee of the State Legislature. 

Public health doctor and researcher, Dr Sylvia Karpagam opined that service for money replaces health care. This offering of ‘choice’ is happening in most private hospitals, particularly evident in empanelled hospitals under the Vajpayee Arogya Scheme in Karnataka. Needless to say, patients end up paying anywhere between Rs 10,000 to 1 lakh for a supposedly free scheme. 

"The doctors protesting the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and clamouring for the Vikramjit Sen Committee reports, fail to mention how patient/citizen rights groups were deliberately excluded from the final decision of the committee, leading to complete takeover by private medical establishments, which then went on the draft recommendations most lucrative for themselves,"she said.

The reason there was no real control or diktats on doctors for all these years was that there was implicit trust in the physician’s desire to do good for the patient. From the physician being considered as ‘god’ to doctors being beaten up by angry relatives, the medical establishment has come a long way and cannot hold patients responsible for the total erosion of trust and regulations on clinical trials, on surrogacy, on devices and their unholy nexus with pharma companies, she opined.

"Karnataka has seen a massive growth of the private medical sector which has neither been self-regulated nor allowed any form of government control. This has led to rampant overcharging, denial of patients’ rights, negligence, unnecessary procedures and tests. Patients have been over-charged and held to ransom," said Dr Karpagam.

The government’s decision of regulating private medical establishments, introducing a charter of patients right’s, creating a grievance redressal committee and fixing a cap on rates should be vigorously applauded and supported. The government should not give in to the pressure exerted by the private sector lobby and instead do whatever is required to ensure that all patients, irrespective of their ability to pay, are offered access to comprehensive preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative health care.

This would go a long way in making the government people-centric instead of market-centric, and make Karnataka a model of comprehensive health care for other states to follow. 

Lashing out at the rights groups for terming private hospitals as 'opportunists'  'lobbyists', Dr Madan Gaekwad, President Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) said, "These rights groups should protest before government hospitals and make the system better instead of attacking private hospitals." 

The rules stated by the government for private hospitals under KPME are draconian. The Justice Vikramjit Sen Committee on health care has already given few recommendations instead of implementing that the government wants to arrest doctors for interrupting patients when he or she is saying about a disease.

Some other rules like giving judicial powers to Zilla panchayat in capping the pricing for highly skilled profession  will lead to the debacle of the health system as over 70 per cent of health services are given by private hospitals, he opined.

Health Minister Ramesh Kumar, meanwhile, has said, "There is a misunderstanding of the bill that all doctors will be jailed if the new bill comes into effect. Even if we want to, we cannot do that. The doctors are instigated to protest. The bill only aims at informing the public about the medical expenses before any treatment is taken up.”