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Doctors set to take warpath over new Act

Calcutta, April 13: With the state apparently in no mood to change certain provisions of the Clinical Establishment Act, doctors have decided to stage demonstrations shortly.

The Act is yet to be enforced, but it is understood that the state will bring doctors practising privately within the purview of the new law — one of the main issues the Indian Medical Association, the parent body of physicians, had protested against.

“We have over the years told the government that doctors who have put in decades of service cannot be asked to change his chamber and comply with government regulations overnight,” IMA state secretary Moloy Patra said.

The association had earlier this year urged its members to defy the state rule bringing licence fee on a par with that applicable in the city. In January 2002, the Clinical Establishment Rules was amended and converted into an Act. But widespread agitation forced the state to send the Act to a review committee before enforcement.

“We are totally in the dark about what they are up to. There has been no communication from the government and if it does not listen to our demands, we will definitely start a bigger agitation,” said IMA joint secretary (headquarters) R.D. Dubey.

The association’s repeated attempts to know the status of the review of the Act have reportedly failed.

The association’s city branch has called a meeting of its members next month to discuss the course of action. “While the government has not told us when the review process will be completed, they have not bothered to inform this to the respective chief medical officers of health in the districts,” Dubey said.

“As a result, the officials are pressurising doctors and polyclinic owners to comply with the new rules which, incidentally, have not been enforced at all,” he alleged.

According to Dubey, complaints of harassment have been pouring in from doctors in various districts, including Howrah, Hooghly and Burdwan. “We have decided to send a delegation to the state health department shortly,” he said.

Prabhakar Chatterjee, director of health services, said the Act would be enforced soon, putting to rest all speculation and ending the confusion. “We have taken into consideration all aspects, but could not make significant changes as demanded by doctors. We will very shortly start enforcing it (the Act),” he said.

Under the Act, a private doctor’s clinic must have a spacious waiting room and an attached bathroom. Most polyclinics and doctors’ chambers do not have a waiting room; a small room is often used for the purpose.

The Act, once implemented, will affect more than 1,500 medium-to-large doctors’ chambers and over 500 small and big nursing homes in the city.

Private nursing homes and diagnostic centres have not been spared the rod either. The trade licence fee to be paid to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation by nursing homes was increased from Rs 100 to Rs 2,500, and in Howrah Municipal Corporation limits, it was hiked from Rs 10 to Rs 500.

This was before the Act was sent for review. The IMA had demanded a more lenient hike.

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