Doctors call for single-window redress

Doctors call for single-window redress

Doctors call for single-window redress

KOLKATA: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has called for a single-window redress system for complaints of medical negligence substituting the multiple fora that now exist in West Bengal.

A bad precedence has been set by the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill that makes doctors and private hospitals liable to be penalized by several bodies and laws for the same lapse, the IMA has pointed out. Doctors in West Bengal should protest the bill for there could be mayhem if other states started replicating it, felt the IMA which will meet on March 11 to seek legal action against the proposed act. It also hinted at seeking political support to get the bill scrapped.

Speaking to ToI from Delhi, IMA president KK Aggarwal said the bill was ‘impractical and detrimental to good treatment’. “Strangely, it seeks to restrict treatment cost and limit every hospitalization to fixed package ceilings which is impossible. Cost of treatment is determined by market forces and varies for each hospital. Fixed packages will restrict treatment and affect doctors’ judgments. It’s also unfair to the clinical establishments. This unnecessary focus on every move will put medics under a lot of pressure and make them even more prone to mistakes. This is not only unjust but unfair on the entire medical community,” said Aggarwal. Meanwhile, doctors in the state will meet in Kolkata on March 10 to protest the bill.

The IMA president added that he had expected the medical fraternity in Kolkata to stage a protest earlier. “I am also disappointed by the state government’s move to have yet another set of laws. At present, doctors can be charged by the police under the IPC, the medical council, human rights commission, Consumer Protection Act and a host of special acts. Now, you have the West Bengal Health Regulatory Commission which has been given powers to arbitrate which can’t be challenged in a lower court. Strangely, now you can move two fora each to seek compensation for medical negligence and to cancel a doctor’s registration. This is ridiculous,” said Aggarwal.

Government hospitals, too, should have been brought under the purview of the bill, he felt. “Only private hospitals can’t be held guilty of medical negligence. Scores of such cases are happening across state hospitals every day. Why should they be overlooked?” asked Aggarwal.

He went on to add that the bill could be replicated in other states. Jharkhand government, for instance, has already drafted a Medical Protection Act that seeks to strengthen existing laws.

“It will lead to chaos, making it absolutely impossible for doctors to function,” felt Aggarwal.

Meanwhile, city doctors getting together to protest the bill on March 10 could form a body and move court, according to R K Dubey, president of the IMA’s south Kolkata unit. The IMA state unit has supported the bill. “There’s a lot of confusion since the IMA headquarters has opposed it, but the state unit has not. A vast majority of doctors in Kolkata and beyond are against the bill. So, we will not only protest it, but also contemplate moving court against it separately,” said Dubey.

Apart from exploring legal option, the IMA was also looking at securing political support to get the bill scrapped, said Aggarwal.