When healthcare is the most basic right of the people, private hospitals in Karnataka are up in arms against the government as it proposes to regulate the hospitals. The State government is expected to table the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act (redrafted) in the upcoming Winter Assembly session scheduled for November 14.
So, what exactly the bill proposes? The State government by amending the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Act (2007) wants to regulate the cost of every treatment and procedure provided at the hospitals.
Further, the bill proposes to recommend the cost of bed charges, operation theatre procedures, ventilation, consultation besides additional treatments. The bill clearly prohibits private hospitals from taking additional charges "unless explained to and consented by the patient." Besides, if the hospitals violate the government rule by collecting more charge than fixed by the state government, the hospitals will be liable to pay penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh besides facing imprisonment of not less than six months or up to three years.
Karnataka, especially, over the years has come to be known for its medical tourism, thanks to the popularity of the private hospitals. However, unfortunately it has reduced the patients from becoming the victims of medical commercialisation.
Isn't it true? Take the case of any private hospital. Even the simple service at some of the reputed hospitals would burn a hole in your pocket, unlike the government hospitals. Their claim of providing "exceptional treatment" from government hospitals should not be allowed to measure in terms of money. But unfortunately, that's exactly what happens in private hospitals. Right from consultation to treatment to procedure, the cost is exorbitant. Also, it goes without saying that sometimes, they refuse to admit poor patients. Worse, in case the patient dies, they refuse to handover the body unless the payment is made. Not to speak of those patients who have reduced to vegetative state due to doctors negligence. Moreover, they seldom work towards the cause of preventive health especially that has low economic value.
In fact, it is not just the "cost" factor that is affecting them but it is the accountability that is causing them worry. For, the bill strongly recommends for grievance redressal forum. The doctors contend that their duty is already regulated by Medical Council of India and the Karnataka Medical Council. Yet, the government is recommending the formation of redressal committee that will enable the patient to approach the panel. This has been a cause for concern to the doctors as they feel this will kill the confidence of the patient in the doctor.
Private hospitals should no longer be allowed to play with the lives of the people. Irrespective of their establishments and their future, what matters is people's health. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called a meeting of private medical institutions to discuss their issues. The government should not give in to their pressure in the interest of the people who hope to receive the best treatment at these hospitals. Besides, making private hospitals accountable for their services will certainly pave the way for a comprehensive health care.