“If this continues for long, I will have to shut down my hospital,” said Dr Pankaj Solanki, owner of the 50-bed Dharamveer Solanki nursing home in Rohini, two weeks after his hospital reserved 20% beds for Covid-19 patients on the government’s orders. At present, the nursing home, which has earmarked 10 beds for Covid patients, has five people with the virus admitted to the hospital.
One of them is Dr Solanki himself, who tested positive three days ago. Another is his uncle. “Technically, there are only three patients in the nursing home who are currently paying for treatment. The non-Covid patients have stopped visiting the hospital and in the last two weeks, there were only two admissions in the non-Covid ward. Expenses have gone up but the number of patients visiting the hospital has gone down,” he said.
Several nursing homes in Delhi with a bed capacity of 50 beds or more have been asked to reserve 20% beds for Covid patients. Electricity charges, cost of PPEs, ventilators and infrastructural changes of converting a non-Covid hospital into a Covid facility, some owners say, has burned a hole in their pockets, leaving them with two options — shut down or move court.
Dr Gopal Sharma, owner of Satyabhama Hospital in West Delhi’s Nangloi, says he is considering opting for the latter route. The 55-bed hospital rarely sees any non-Covid patient these days.
“Our expenses have been increasing but revenue does not match up. There are additional costs of running a hospital now, such as buying PPEs and paying incentive to staff… The society and the government are not understanding our problems,” Dr Sharma said.
With falling OPD numbers, a 20-30% drop in bed occupancy, and providing care to Covid patients on a fixed cost set by the government, Dr Sharma said the hospital’s days might be numbered in case there’s no support offered from the State.
“We are struggling to survive at the moment, and these circumstances are expected to continue for another five to six months. We can also understand the problems faced by the State, but it is only the court which can now come up with a scientific solution that is viable for everyone,” he said.
Dr Nutan Mundeja, director general of health services, Delhi government, said, “These issues have not been brought to my notice. The nursing home cell may have received representations from the nursing homes.”
Recently, the Delhi government, following recommendations made by a high-level committee headed by NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, capped treatment charges in all private hospitals in the city.
“If a patient is being charged the same price at a corporate hospital, then why would he be coming to a small nursing home like ours? Our hospital doesn’t have all facilities provided at big corporate hospitals. There are four Covid patients admitted in my nursing home, including me, and just three patients on the 40 beds reserved for non-Covid patients. How will the hospital survive?” said the owner of another 50-bed nursing home in Burari.
Established in 1982, East Delhi’s Walia Nursing home, owned by veteran Congress leader Dr Ashok Walia, shut last week. “Since Covid-19 cases started to surface, most senior doctors from the hospital have refused to come. The expense of running a nursing home was coming out to be Rs 16-18 lakh per month and the only way out was to shut down the facility,” Dr Walia told The Indian Express.
Dr V K Monga, chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s Hospital Board of India, said, “Most hospitals do not have the infrastructure required of a Covid care centre, such as a separate entry and lifts for non-Covid patients, the absence of which can lead to them mixing with Covid cases.”