Thousands of private clinics, hospitals and diagnostic centers in Odisha remained closed on Friday, delaying surgeries, investigative procedures, treatments and emergency care throughout the state.
They downed their shutters in response to a 24-hour strike called by the All Odisha Private Medical Establishment Forum demanding several amendments to the act they say is hurting them.
The new rules notified a month ago made the conditions for registration of such clinic and hospitals stringent raising the hackles of their owners, who were already dissatisfied over the government delaying its nod to the applications of registration and making fire safety certification mandatory.
The Odisha Clinical Establishments (Control and Regulation) Act passed in 2016 in the aftermath of a devastating fire in Bhubaneswar’s SUM Hospital that killed 26 people made it mandatory for all such clinics and hospitals to get fire safety certificates within six months.
The forum, the parent body of the owners of the 2,000-odd healthcare facilities, said that the strike call was a warning to the government to change the rules.
“More than 90% of such clinics in the state are unregistered due to the stringent standards. We feel the government is trying to clamp down on the hospitals through these rules. If the government does not renew the registration, we have no other way but to shut down. If we close them down, how will the public get the services?” asked Dr Ajoy Kumar Mishra, president of the forum.
He said private clinics and hospitals are particularly upset over the new rules making it mandatory for the hospitals to collect diagnostic fees as per Central Government Health Services (CGHS) rates.
“The government wants us to charge Rs 50 for consultation fee from each patient. Which specialist doctor in Odisha would take Rs 50 as consultation fee? The government wants us to charge Rs 1000 for MRI while government medical hospitals like AIIMS and SCB charges Rs 3000. How would we survive?” asked Mishra.
He said all private hospitals, pathology labs and diagnostic centres will remain closed till 6am on Saturday.
There are other conditions in the rules which the clinic and hospital owners are unhappy about. As per the new draft rules, both outside and inside premises of clinical establishments should have closed-circuit television or CCTV cameras for adequate surveillance. It said the bed and nurse ratio must be 10:3.
Clinics will also have to get a fire safety certificate from the state fire services department and no objection certificate issued by the pollution control board.
They have to display the number of poor patients that they admit and treat and cannot detain any patient or attendants or dead body over for non-payment of fees.
The forum’s members said private clinics and hospitals cater to 70% of the people in Odisha but the state government was only trying to harass them by forcing them to adopt impractical fire prevention systems and infrastructural modifications.
Director of health services Dr B Brahma said government health institutions, including medical colleges and hospitals, have been instructed to be in readiness to meet the emergency situation arising due to the strike.
The leaves of all the doctors and paramedical staff at SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, have been cancelled.