At least 40,000 private hospitals and clinics across Karnataka were shut on Friday, as doctors protested against the state’s proposed amendments to a medical bill, IANS reported. While the emergency wards and ambulance services were not affected, outpatient departments at most private hospitals wore a deserted look, reports said.

The Indian Medical Association had called for the daylong strike against the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Doctors are opposing the bill saying it will give the government more power to regulate fees and the cost of treatment at private hospitals.

The bill also proposes setting up a district-level grievance committee that can take action against erring hospitals. The amended bill will be presented in the upcoming Winter Session in Belagavi.

“If the government sets up a law this way, doctors are going to be extremely wary of taking up risky cases,” Dr HN Ravindra, president of the Karnataka chapter of the Indian Medical Association, told IANS. “The bill even proposes imprisoning doctors for up to three years and imposing a fine of Rs 5 lakh.”

Private doctors and the state’s medical associations are planning to meet on November 5, Ravindra said. “We will decide what next then.”

What the doctors are demanding

Private doctors’ associations said their main demand was the bill should apply to government hospitals too, and that the state government must consider the recommendations made by a committee headed by former Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Vikramajit Sen, according to The Times of India.

“Justice Sen said there cannot be two sets of rules for private and government hospitals, and the act must cover government hospitals, as well,” the newspaper quoted Dr Rajshekar S Bellary, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Karnataka branch, as saying.