The biggest chunk, Rs 250 crore, has been spent on setting up infrastructure like quarantine centres and Covid care centres, data accessed from the BMC shows.
Civic officials said that in March and April, they had spent a major chunk of the funds on Seven Hills hospital to convert it into a dedicated Covid hospital. The hospital provided a ready building, but some floors had to be modified completely to suit the needs of infectious wards. At least 300 intensive care units were purchased and extra staff recruited to run the hospital.
While the BMC has spent another Rs 130 crore on procuring medicines and equipment, a major component has been the purchase of investigational drugs like Remdesivir, Tocilizumab and Favipiravir. The civic body has already placed an order for 15,690 Remdesivir vials — an anti-viral used to reduce viral load in high-risk patients — with each costing Rs 4,114. It plans to order another 11,000 vials. It has also ordered 3,520 Tocilizumab injections, each costing Rs 30,870, to treat critical patients at risk of cytokine storm. A proposal to buy 4,000 more vials has been approved.
In addition, BMC has purchased 2.7 lakh Favipiravir tablets, each worth Rs 58.80. “We have received approval to buy 27.31 lakh Favipiravir tablets. The orders will be placed as and when the need arises,” a civic official said.
Mumbai has recorded over 1.10 lakh Covid-19 cases, with 22,500 still actively infected. In addition, 6.63 lakh high-risk contacts have been traced and brought to quarantine centres. Over 6,000 remain in institutional quarantine. BMC has spent Rs 75 crore on just food for such patients, high-risk contacts and its own staff in hospitals and Covid centres.
Another Rs 40 crore has been spent on KEM, Sion, Dr RN Cooper and Nair hospitals to improve infrastructure, procure personal protective equipment (PPE) and hire more nursing staff. Around Rs 10 crore has been spent on specialised hospitals like Kasturba and Sewri TB. For peripheral hospitals like Bhabha Bandra, Rajawadi, Kandivali Shatabdi, Rs 30 crore has been spent on oxygen supply tanks, PPE and masks.
For 2020-21, BMC had allocated Rs 4,260.30 crore to its health department, of that Rs 1,049.07 crore was set to be spent on capital expenditures like infrastructure and equipment and Rs 3,211.2 crore on revenue expenses like salaries and medicines. The expenditure on treating people for Covid-19 accounts for 14.3 per cent of this year’s BMC health budget.
Civic officials said with the pandemic, other infrastructure projects like hostels for resident doctors and new hospital redevelopment plans may take a backseat. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani, however, said there is enough funds to continue with planned projects. “Every year, BMC spends around 60 to 70 per cent of its budget, 30 to 40 per cent remains unspent. That may get compensated for expenditure we incurred during the pandemic,” he added.
When contacted, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said the civic body’s revenue has gone down by Rs 3,000 crore. “Every institution is suffering, so are we. In the next general body meeting, we will plan on how to cut our expenses.”
With daily cases plateaued at 1,200 to 1,500 in Mumbai, BMC is keen on diverting patients from local Covid care centres to jumbo facilities.
“We have asked each ward to maintain one or maximum two Covid care centres. Slowly, we are setting up quarantine centres at the ward level,” Kakani said.
Although BMC has allocated Rs 4,260.30 crore for health – 12.7 per cent of its total budget (Rs 33,441.02 crore) – as compared to Maharashtra government’s allocation of 3.9 per cent (Rs 17,288 crore) of its total budget for health, experts said there is a need to further increase spending on health.
State Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said, “The pandemic has made the finance department realise the importance to invest more in public health sector.”
BMC currently spends Rs 2,840 per capita on health, much higher than the state. The corporation has grown its health budget by 14 per cent – from Rs 3,735.01 crore revised estimate in 2019-20 to Rs 4,260.30 crore this year.
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