In support of the demand for a complete withdrawal of the bill, private hospitals are completely shut – no OPD, no emergency. The strike entered its 13th day on Thursday. Doctors say the bill will increase bureaucratic interference in the functioning of private hospitals
Ramavtar Gupta, a 70- year-old state pensioner suffering from diabetes and lung disease, used to walk to a nearby private hospital on Tonk road in Jaipur every month to get a prescription from a doctor under Rajasthan Government Health Scheme (RGHS). He ran out of medicines three days ago and waited for the strike of the private hospitals to end. Seeing no hope, Gupta purchased medicines from a medical shop for the time without a prescription.
Similarly, Pramila Devi, 65, was operated on for a cataract at a private hospital on Gopalpura bypass and was asked by the doctor to come after a month for a checkup. Eye drops are over and she and her family members have no option but to wait for the strike to end to be able to consult doctors.
They are also confused about whether to continue the drop or not. Like them, many patients are suffering in silence in parts of Rajasthan due to a strike by private doctors against the Right to Health Bill, claiming the execution of this legislation will create hurdles in their smooth functioning and the involvement of local authorities will increase.
In support of the demand for a complete withdrawal of the bill, private hospitals are completely shut – no OPD, no emergency. The strike entered its 13th day on Thursday. Doctors say the bill will increase bureaucratic interference in the functioning of private hospitals.
According to the bill, every resident of the state will have the right to emergency treatment and care “without prepayment” at any “public health institution, healthcare establishment and designated healthcare centres”.
A share of private hospitals’ patient load shifted to government hospitals while many patients, who believe they are not facing any emergencies, are waiting for the strike to end, instead of rushing to government hospitals.
But there are many patients who are moving to states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh for treatment.
“What everyone can see is doctors are opposing the bill and the government is defending the bill. There is nothing for convenience for patients,” said Yashwant Kumar, a government employee.
Share broker Omprakash said he is feeling pain in the neck but due to long queues in government hospitals, he prefers to wait for the strike to end.
“I get very little time so I cannot go to the government hospital and struggle to consult a doctor unless it’s an emergency. I did some yoga and exercise. There was relief to some extent, but I have pain and therefore I came to the pharmacy (shop) to get a painkiller,” he said.
The owner of the pharmacy in Mansarover said like Omprakash, there are many who are coming to purchase medicines on the basis of symptoms because of the strike.
Those living in areas close to the inter-state border and facing an emergency of treatment and can spend money are moving to private hospitals in other states. There are several patients who have gone to Gujarat from Udaipur division. Similarly, people in Kota division are exploring options in Madhya Pradesh. For people in Alwar and Bharatpur, hospitals in Delhi like AIIMS are the preferred choice.
Shobit Saxena from Kota said his wife has been diagnosed with a tumour in the throat and doctors have recommended surgery as soon as possible. Since there is a rush in government hospitals, he is planning to go to Gujarat for it.
A health department official said to handle the workload, arrangements are being made in government hospitals. Nearly 300 junior resident doctors have been selected through walk-in interviews in the two days on Tuesday and Wednesday while 700 more junior resident doctors will be selected soon.
“This will help in easing pressure in government hospitals attached to the medical colleges. The government has its own big infrastructure and it was strengthened during the COVID period,” the official said.
Dr Vijay Kapoor, secretary of the private hospitals and nursing homes society, said there are nearly 2,400 private hospitals and nursing homes in Rajasthan, including nearly 500 in Jaipur alone.
“Seventy per cent of service in the medical and health sector is rendered by the private sector. Due to the strike of private doctors, patients are going to other states. No OPD and no emergency is functional in private hospitals,” he said.
On Wednesday, government doctors also boycotted work for a day in solidarity with the private doctors. However, there was no major impact of the strike and the rush of patients in government hospitals was limited. Many of the government doctors also returned to work after a boycott of 2-3 hours at several places.
The bill was passed on March 21. Before the bill was amended, the draft mentioned “any healthcare provider, establishment or facility, including private provider, establishment or facility, public health institution, healthcare establishment and designated healthcare centres, qualified”.
According to the amended bill that was passed, “designated healthcare centres” mean healthcare centres as prescribed in the rules, which are yet to be framed.
Doctors say their one-point demand is the withdrawal of the bill and any discussion on the points of the bill will be held only after the government fulfils the demand. Health Minister Parsadi Lal said if the doctors have any problem, they should hold talks with the government.
“The doors of the government are always open for the doctors. They should call off the strike and should fulfil their duty as doctors,” he added.