The state health department has proposed to extend the 80:20 reservation of beds in private hospitals until January, as a precaution against a possible second wave of Covid-19 infections and cap charges for beds reserved by the government.
With the post-Diwali spike in Mumbai and rise in active cases in districts like Palghar, Nashik, Nandurbar, Sindhudurg, Washim, and Nagpur since November 20, state health officials said it is wise to continue the bed reservation in private hospitals in case the active case load further rises across other districts. Maharashtra currently has over 73,000 active cases. Mumbai, Thane and Pune continue to form the bulk of active infections. Mumbai has seen a rise in daily infections from 400-600 a month ago to 700-1,000 now. Its active case load stands at 12,423 cases.
“The idea is to continue 80:20 formula till January. If cases don’t rise, we can always recall the decision later. We have put forth the proposal, but the final decision will be taken by the government in coming days,” a senior health official said.
Private hospitals have opposed the government’s move, claiming they are incurring huge financial losses due to price capping and reservation. Various hospital heads are slated to meet the state health secretary and the BMC commissioner on Monday. Health minister Rajesh Tope said the state is likely to continue reservation of beds in hospitals. “The final signature will be of the chief minister. We are yet to finalise the percentage of reserved beds in hospitals. Depending on new cases in the coming two-three days, we will take a final call,” Tope told The Indian Express.
The current state notification to reserve 80 per cent beds will continue until December 15. In a series of three notifications, Maharashtra government had introduced price capping for treatment at private hospitals during the pandemic. On April 30, state government capped rates of various procedures in private hospitals. Hospitals in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel, and Pune that have an agreement on treatment packages with the General Insurance Public Sector Association (GIPSA), cannot charge more than the lowest bed category rates for patients. GIPSA is an association of government insurance companies that fixes package rates for surgeries in hospitals.
For hospitals not attached with GIPSA package rates, the notification provided a schedule of rates beyond which they cannot charge. For instance, an angiography would cost a patient not more than Rs 12,000, a normal delivery not more than Rs 75,000, a valve replacement was capped at Rs 3.23 lakh, a permanent pacemaker implantation at Rs 1.38 lakhs, a cataract surgery at Rs 25,000 and so on. Items like pacemaker, personal protective equipment (PPE), intraocular lenses, stents, catheter, balloon, medical implants, consumables could not be charged more than 10 per cent mark up on net procurement cost.
On May 21 in a second notification, the state government reserved 80 per cent of beds in private hospitals and capped prices for those beds for both Covid and non-Covid patients. In a third notification on August 31, the state government extended the 80 per cent reservation and price capping until November- end.
In October, however, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High court quashed price capping for non-Covid treatment in hospitals. The Maharashtra government has appealed against HC order in the Supreme Court. “Our proposal is to reduce the percentage of reservation or remove it. All hospitals will meet government officials to take final decision on Monday,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant physician with Bombay hospital.
“We are bleeding financially. There are very few Covid-19 patients in our hospital and we are incurring huge financial losses. We have asked government to admit patients in jumbo facilities since there is huge capacity there,” said Dr V Ravishankar, chief operating officer in Lilavati Hospital.
Maharashtra is diagnosing 4,000-5,000 new cases with less than 100 deaths on a daily basis. While the active case load in entire state has reduced, it has slightly risen in Mumbai since November 20 after Diwali. State officials are anticipating a second wave by December or January due to back-to-back festivities and phase wise unlocking across the state.
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