The Indian Medical Association on Tuesday extended support to protests by doctors in Rajasthan against the Right to Health Act introduced by the state government.

According to the Act, which was passed in the state Assembly last week, public and private hospitals must offer emergency treatment to patients without any prepayment when required. This clause is one of the most contentious parts of the law, which has sparked opposition from state’s medical community.

Although the Act mentions that the government will reimburse the hospitals, the protestors say there is no clarity on how or when the reimbursement will take place.

On March 27, nearly 20,000 doctors protested in Jaipur after the Indian Medical Association had called for a nationwide protest against the law in Rajasthan, reported The Quint. The Indian Medical Association’s National President Sharad Kumar Agarwal and Honorary Secretary General Anilkumar Nayak urged the Rajasthan Government to initiate discussions with the protesting doctors and take steps to resolve the matter immediately.

Agarwal and Nayak said that the government should not “run away from the responsibility of providing quality health care to all and for providing adequate infrastructure and facilities for providing the best possible service to the public.

The Indian Medical Association said that if the Rajasthan government would not withdraw the Act, it might take “aggressive action” and would continue its agitation throughout the country. “Any difficulty faced by patients will be responsibility of Rajasthan Government,” it said.

On Wednesday, government doctors and faculty members of medical colleges in Rajasthan went on a one-day strike in solidarity with private doctors, reported PTI. The strikes have continued despite the state government warning of strict action against the doctors and government staffers going on leave without prior approval.

The Congress government in the state had ordered medical college principals to ensure that services in outpatient departments, in-patient departments, intensive care units, emergency and maternity wards were not disrupted.

What does the Act say

Under the Right to Health Act, neither government nor private hospitals nor doctors can refuse a person seeking emergency treatment. With the Act, Rajasthan became the first state in India to make access to healthcare a legal right.

Emergency treatment would include care in case of accidents, animal or snake bites, complications in pregnancy or an emergency defined by the state health authority.

However, critics of the legislation believe that it will put more pressure on healthcare workers, especially those in private hospitals. Vijay Kapoor, secretary of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Society, told Scroll: “The government is shifting its own responsibility to private doctors – and it is doing so at gunpoint.”

Also read:
What Rajasthan’s right to health law promises – and where it falls short