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‘PMC, PMRDA failed to put in place effective plan to run CoEP jumbo facility’

Sujit Patker, director, Lifeline Hospital Management Services, the agency managing the hospital and whose contract was terminated, denies mismanagement allegations in an interview with The Indian Express.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: September 11, 2020 12:30:34 pm
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The jumbo Covid-19 facility at College of Engineering Pune (CoEP) has faced much flak with allegations of mismanagement, after it started functioning on August 21. SUJIT PATKER, director, Lifeline Hospital Management Services, the agency managing the hospital and whose contract was terminated, denies the allegations in an interview with The Indian Express. Excerpts:

The district administration has terminated Lifeline’s contract to run the jumbo Covid facility. Your comments.

We told them that we didn’t want to run the facility. The district administration roped in two new agencies, so we told them that running a hospital involved medico-legal cases and, in that case, three agencies together could not be held responsible. This is why, last week we conveyed our inability to run the facility.

There are allegations of mismanagement. The divisional commissioner also said Lifeline did not run the facility in an efficient manner. What do you have to say about that?

The allegations aren’t true. We tried our best to run the hospital with honesty and sincerity. Our medical staff was putting in all effort to run the hospital and save lives.

What went wrong?

The PMC and PMRDA administration did not put a proper plan in place. If a proper plan was implemented right from the beginning, the situation would not have escalated. In the first three to four days after the hospital started functioning, we were saddled with 350 to 400 patients, all serious. According to the terms of the contract, patient intake was to be increased in a phased manner. In the first week, it was planned that 25 per cent patients will be admitted. Unfortunately, in the first week, we had 100 per cent patient intake in the ICU and HDU (high dependency unit).

Also Read | After doctors and nurses quit, private agency opts out of managing COEP jumbo facility

On our part, we asked doctors to join in a phased manner. Our team of doctors had not even settled down and planned a strategy when they found themselves saddled with too many patients at once… it became difficult for them to manage such a vast number of patients.

Why didn’t you raise objections?

We were told that the Sassoon hospital oxygen facility had developed a problem and, therefore, it had no choice but to move the patients to the hospital. We even had to admit walk-in patients and serious patients from other hospitals. We were told that the admissions would be through a centralised command system, but it was never done.

Why did a large number of doctors and nurses quit the facility?

First, the PMC directed us not to recruit doctors from Pune. We were recruiting doctors from Pune and other cities by giving them good pay. They readily joined our team before the PMC directives. So some doctors refused to work with us. Second, our doctors and other staff had to face threats and abuse from political leaders, who gate-crashed the hospital. Mobs were barging in and threatening our medical team. Though there was security at the gates, they were too few to stop them. Out of fear and safety concerns, the medical team started to quit.

The facility was also criticised after the death of journalist Pandurang Raikar. What happened?

It was an unfortunate incident, but we are in no way responsible. Our team of doctors tried their best to save the journalist’s life, but he suffered a cardiac arrest. Three ambulances called by the journalist’s family and friends led to problems. The family wanted to move the patient to a private hospital. All three cardiac ambulances had problems regarding ventilator. Either ventilator was not functioning or it was missing.

The facility also faced criticism for improper infrastructure and food provided to patients.

We were not involved in these tasks. There were different agencies looking after them.

What prior experience do you have in running a Covid hospital?

We set up four Covid care centres in Mumbai. All of them are functioning well. The BMC put in place an effective plan. Beds and patient intake were increased in a phased manner. We also run a hospital in Kolhapur.

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