Karnataka: Private doctors call off strike, protests to continue in Belagavi

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Protesting private medical doctors have called off their strike in Bengaluru on Thursday evening following an intervention by the High Court of Karnataka.

However, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has urged the private doctors to withdraw their decision to go on a strike on Thursday.

Private hospitals across Karnataka, including Bengaluru would reopen their Out Patient Departments (OPDs) on Friday on the advice of the Karnataka High Court on Thursday, said two official of the medical associations.

The division bench comprising acting Chief Justice HG Ramesh and Justice PS Dinesh Kumar observed that the doctors should call off their protest as the government has an "open mind on the issue", and asked them to participate in the talks convened by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The party had also staged a walk-out demanding immediate solution even as they claimed that the delay may cause more deaths of patients.

Calling the act "draconian" and "detrimental" to the medical profession, the doctors alleged that the state government was implementing the Sen committee report selectively.

In a casualty of the strike, students of a school at Ramanagar, who were injured after their van collided with a government bus reportedly faced difficulties after a nearby private hospital allegedly refused to accept the case and referred it to Bengaluru, the police said.

The proposed amendments would allow the government to cap treatment costs, would force private hospitals to adhere to set standards of infrastructure and staffing; and would force them to display, prominently, a patient's charter enumerating their rights.

According to Indian Medical Association's Karnataka Chapter President H.N. Ravindra, about 80 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.

Siddaramaiah will also meet members of the doctors' association Friday.

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In Jamakhandi Taluk in Bagalkote district, a seriously ill woman was taken to a private hospital, but allegedly there were none to attend her.

Stormy scenes were witnessed in the Karnataka assembly because of the strike with the Opposition BJP saying the situation must be resolved immediately, or it may lead to even more deaths.

He added that the government had no intention of harassing private doctors or hospitals.

Replying to opposition BJP, the minister said it was not a prestige issue for him.

To be sure, the KPME (Amendment) bill has not yet been tabled in the state legislature.

PHANA secretary R Raveendra alleged that state Health Minister Ramesh Kumar was adamant on passing the proposed amendments.

Since the government is open for talks, the court suggested the striking doctors to come to the discussion table.

"As we empanelled you and we have to pay you tax payers money for services, we have to fix charges for services...", the minister said.

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