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Mumbai hospitals unhappy with state treatment

Threats of arrests, government takeover and FIRs for letting staff get infected - that's the reality for private hospitals in Mumbai, the country's Covid-19 nerve center.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 08.17 AM IST
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Mumbai: Threats of arrests, government takeover and FIRs for letting staff get infected - that's the reality for private hospitals in Mumbai, the country's Covid-19 nerve center. Senior officials at private hospitals say the state government's draconian measures are harming outcomes. Private hospitals in the city have been pushed by the Maharashtra government to expand their existing facilities by converting their special wards into general wards, and offer 80% of their capacity at the state government mandated rates, in order to meet the critical care demand that the city is facing.

Some private hospitals, which are seeing a collapse in revenue, have asked doctors to take pay cuts, and have had to dip into their reserves. The tug of war between the state and private hospitals comes at a time when the city is struggling with a seeming shortage of critical care beds, leading to a waiting list in hospitals and ultimately, in some cases, deaths of Covid-19 patients, due to non-availability of care on time. Most of the city’s governmentrun hospitals are using nearly all of their capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. As the number of new infections goes up, government hospitals are finding it hard to manage the growing number of Covid patients, along with the regular non-Covid cases.

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“At the rate that the state government is asking us to provide services we will soon run out of money to pay salaries to our staff,” said Dr Hiren Ambegaonkar, CEO of Fortis Raheja Hospital. “Of the operational beds left with us we have already given 80% of our beds for Covid-19. The hospital has a total of 154 beds, out of which 60 are dedicated to Covid-19 but we cannot run only on Covid-19; we have other patients, too, whom we need to provide care for," he said. Last month the hospital made an operational loss of Rs 1 crore.

The government has asked hospitals to dip into their reserves if they fall short, but hospitals say reserves also have to be used for other purposes, such as paying vendors. “Their main requirement is we offer a large capacity of our hospitals for general category patients. They even suggested that we put additional beds in single rooms or put a third bed in twin sharing [accommodation] etc and charge the lowest rate. They told us that they have the power under the Epidemic Act to run the hospitals by IAS officers. They want us to make sacrifices and reduce the charges of doctors," according to a senior hospital official who attended a meeting with the chief minister on May 12.

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Another CEO of a city hospital said that bigger hospitals are not equitably giving up their beds, leading to a few hospitals getting burdened with treating patients. The state government should ask each hospitals to allocate a set number of ICU beds that would help divide the burden, this official said. The Association of Hospitals have offered 2,400 beds for Covid-19 care, out of which 442 will be ICU beds which will be provided by 43 hospitals across the city. The state government has also asked hospitals to keep their Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients in one ward, a suggestion that hospitals say would lead to cross infections.
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