Bengal doctors to protest on April 14 against regulatory law

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Kolkata, March 10 (IANS) A section of medical practitioners in West Bengal will protest on April 14 against what they termed a “draconian” new law passed by the state government and to demand its repeal.

They said on Friday that they will also seek an audience with Governor K.N. Tripathi and state authorities to apprise them of the objectionable provisions in the said law.

“We will organise a rally in protest on April 14 against the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017, that was passed. We have taken a resolution to write to the state government and seek an appointment with the Governor.

“We hoping that the government will give us a patient hearing on some of the loopholes in the law and go for amendment,” IMA (south Kolkata branch) President R.D. Dubey, also a member of the West Bengal Medical Council.

Dubey said they will also seek legal advice to move court against the law.

The All Bengal Doctors Convention here publicly debated on whether they should refuse to treat patients, given the punitive measures introduced in the legislation.

The meeting, which saw participation of a large number of practitioners from various branches of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Bengal, also drove home the message that IMA members with political associations must be removed.

At the convention, a specialist suggested: “We will not refuse emergency patients. We can see patients in emergency but we have the right to refuse to treat the patients by telling them that we are afraid to treat them. Let us see for a week as to what happens.”

However, another section of doctors present at the convention said they would turn away patients even from emergency wards.

Referring to the West Bengal Regulatory Health Commission envisaged by the legislation, the doctors contended that they were not against any monitoring body, but expressed dismay over the commission having no powers to rein in malpractices in government hospitals.

“The private as well as the government hospitals are already regulated by the West Bengal Medical Council. What is the use of the bill? Why doesn’t the new regulatory body consider the state-run hospitals,” said S. Daga, a retired physician and IMA member.

The IMA has demanded its “immediate repeal”.

According to doctors attending the convention, some of the top bosses in the various Bengal branches of IMA are affiliated to the ruling Trinamool Congress and are therefore, supporting the law.

“The IMA in every state has passed a resolution against the law but a section in Bengal are supporting it,” said Dubey.

“There is an apprehension that the same could be executed in other states. Just because a section in the medical fraternity are indulging in unethical practices, the entire fraternity is suffering. We have to find out possible amendments because there are loopholes in the law. We will suggest the amendments and if they don’t accept it then we will fight tooth and nail,” a doctor said.

On March 3, the assembly passed the bill regulating functioning of private health facilities, providing up to three-year jail terms and trials under the culpable homicide section of the Indian Penal Code, and also a maximum fine of Rs 50 lakh for patients’ deaths due to severe medical negligence.

The new law, aimed at bringing transparency, ending harassment of patients and checking medical negligence in private hospitals and nursing homes, draws under its ambit all other private medical set ups — irrespective of whether they are registered or not.

The new law stipulates setting up a high power 13-member West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission to monitor activities of private hospitals.

–IANS

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