Why doctors protest Rajasthan health bill? An analysis

The Rajasthan government recently passed the Right to Health bill, which seeks to ensure right to healthcare to at least eight crore people in the state, has kicked up a ruckus in the state. However, private hospitals and doctors are protesting against the Congress government in the state led by Ashok Gehlot government.

Lifeline for 8 crore people, 1st state to bring such bill 

Rajasthan has become the first state in the country to implement it. Precisely, the Bill gives every resident of the state the right to emergency treatment and care “without prepayment of requisite fee or charges”. The bill states that all government and private hospitals will have to provide treatment without any fee from the relatives of the patient who came in an emergency. The money incurred on treatment can be taken from the patients/relatives after the treatment. The government has made OPD, IPD, medicines, tests, and ambulance services completely free in all government hospitals and some selected private hospitals. It will also be the responsibility of the hospital to refer a patient to another hospital in critical condition and to provide an ambulance for the patient. In case of an accident, no hospital or health care center will delay the treatment. It is said to be the lifeline for millions of people who will now get uninterrupted access to healthcare, without any excessive forms and formalities. The Gehlot government is calling Right to Health a masterstroke, ahead of assembly elections in the state.

Bill penalises doctors, hospitals: Protesting doctors

Doctors in private hospitals have been protesting against the Right to Health bill for several days. On Wednesday, the medical services remained crippled in the state after government doctors and faculty members in medical colleges went on a one-day strike in solidarity with private doctors. At least 20,000 government doctors went on mass leave. OPD services stopped. Only emergency services were seen running, due to which the patients who needed immediate healthcare were left suffering. They want take strict action against the police officials who have allegedly used force against protesting doctors. The protestors argue that the new bill will increase bureaucratic interference in the functioning of private hospitals as the bill. Scores of private hospitals have suspended their work for days, demanding the government to withdraw the bill.

Doctors’ body back protesters

Indian Medical Association (IMA) secretary Dr Ravindra Dhabhai stated that there is a lot of resentment among doctors. He added that they are not even left in a position to work after the passage of the bill. The government has created distance and disputes between doctors and patients, he added. On the other hand, IMA national president Dr Sharad Kumar Agarwal also joined the protest on Monday, according to the Indian Express. He said, “Health is the right of every citizen, but providing it is the responsibility of the state government. Because they are incapable of doing so, they are putting it on doctors. We are ready to support the government but we cannot shoulder the entire responsibility. The government spends around Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 to run each bed in their hospitals. Who will provide us with this money? The Act does not say who will pay these expenses. We urge the government to take back this draconian Bill.” Dr Amit Yadav, former president of Jaipur Association of Resident Doctors, said: “It will increase bureaucratic challenges in hospitals — determining what is and is not an emergency. Second, it does not define a clear mechanism of reimbursement from the government. And third, it does not say who should treat what. If I run an eye clinic, I cannot treat a heart attack case.”

Doctors warned of disciplinary action

The state government has urged the protesting doctors to call of strikes. The health department has also issued an order asking for disciplinary action against the doctors who will boycott work. Meanwhile, the Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued notices to the Principal Secretary (Medical and Health) and Registrar (Rajasthan Medical Council) seeking a reply on what action is being taken against the striking doctors in the state.  Chairman of the commission Justice GK Vyas has appealed to the doctors to immediately call off their strike.


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