Mumbai has 33 private hospitals that are treating Covid-19 patients. On May 21, the state health department had issued an order capping the price of 80 per cent of beds at these hospitals following reports of patients being charged exorbitant sums. As per the order, these hospitals could charge up to Rs 4,000 a day for a general bed, Rs 7,500 a day for an ICU bed, and Rs 9,000 a day if the patient is on a ventilator.
Mumbai Central’s Wockhardt Hospital, which was converted into a Covid-19 hospital with 100 beds, recently shut its pediatric cardiac surgery and neonatal departments.
Around 10 specialist doctors, including pediatric intensivists, have not paid for the past three months, sources told Mirror. A senior doctor with the hospital said, “They haven’t issued any termination letters but since the doctors have not been paid for three months they are all looking for jobs at other hospitals.” Another doctor said, “It’s not just the pediatric cardiac surgery department that has been affected. Other non-Covid departments are not functioning due to the 80:20 rule and price capping.”
Dr Parag Rindani, head of Wockhardt Hospitals, refused to comment on the doctors’ claims. He said that the hospital at Mumbai Central is currently a dedicated Covid-19 facility and charging patients as per the government’s price caps.
The CEO of another south Mumbai hospital, who did not wish to be identified, said the hospital has so far supported the government and reserved 80 per cent of beds for Covid-19 patients. He added, “But the notification also caps prices of non-Covid treatment. We want to restart non-Covid departments but these price caps make it impossible to do so. We have been bearing losses for the past five months and don’t even have money to pay salaries.”
Dr Sandeep Gaonkar, assistant medical superintendent at Bhatia Hospital, said that since April, the hospital has undercharged patients referred to it by the BMC by a total of Rs 96 lakh. “We used to conduct around 25 surgeries a day before the pandemic. Now the number of patients coming in for surgery has fallen to just four or five a day,” he added. Dr Gaonkar claimed that since the start of the pandemic, the hospital has been paying its employees who treat Covid-19 patients double their salaries. “Our trustees have supported us with donations to pay these salaries, but we can’t run the hospital like this for much longer,” he added.
Dr Jaleel Parkar, a senior pulmonologist at Lilavati Hospital, said doctors there had initially expected the number of Covid-19 cases to start falling within three months. “It has now been five months and we are still seeing between 800 to 1,000 new cases a day. What does the state government expect us to do? How long do they want us to continue this charity? If Covid continues for another two years, will we be expected to keep charging just Rs 500 per visit?” he said. “The hospital can not run losses for such a long time. The government should think about this too,” he added.
A senior administrator at Hinduja hospital said, “We reserved 80 per cent of beds for Covid patients and spent almost Rs 10 crore on dedicated Covid wards and an ICU. Despite incurring losses we have supported the government. Now the government should understand our problem. Ours is a charitable hospital, where 30 per cent of beds are always reserved for the underprivileged.”