Private pandemic

Private hospitals have once again been asked to meet shortage in public healthcare system, despite the government having a year to improve its infrastructure

Published 3 years ago on Apr 10, 2021 1 minute Read

With March 2021 seeing a new surge in COVID-19 infections in India, state governments are once again asking private hospitals to pitch in. Maharashtra, which is among the states to report higher incidence, is facing a severe shortage of beds and has extended the order to reserve 80% of the beds in private establishments to May 31. Nagpur is the worst affected and, in Pune, patients in civic-run YCM hospital in Pimpri had to be administered oxygen in the triage area. In other states, Karnataka has asked for 50% beds to be kept aside and so has the Delhi government but in select hospitals, and Bihar has asked for 10-25%. The Uttar Pradesh government has asked private hospitals to be prepared for the next surge and keep ready COVID-19 wards.

Last year, when similar orders were issued by several states, people complained that the hospitals were not taking in the infected and that the listed hospitals did not have adequate facilities and staff. Hospitals, on their part, said that they were suffering losses from having to cap prices on COVID-19 treatment, reserve beds, people opting to not have elective surgeries and medical tourism thinning out.

IndiaSpend had done a study, of the first quarter after COVID-19, between April and June 2020, and found that the hospitals were suffering from loss of revenue and increase in costs. There were added expenses in sanitising premises and providing protective gear to staff, and in giving staff added bonuses to keep them coming in for work. The study said that Fortis Healthcare had seen a net loss of  ₹1.79 billion against a profit of  ₹678 million in the same quarter the previous fiscal, and Narayana Hridayalaya saw a net loss of  ₹1.19 billion against a profit of  ₹303 million. Mid-sized hospitals saw significant fall in revenues too.

While the private sector has to grin and bear it, whatever happened to upgrading the public health infrastructure to meet such exigencies?