In a move to free up beds in private hospitals occupied by patients who do not need hospitalisation, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday announced that it would be converting four- and five-star hotels into Covid care centres or ‘step-down facilities’. The BMC officials say that the move was necessitated after they found that beds in private hospitals were being occupied by patients who did not require medical intervention and could be adequately managed at isolation or ‘step-down facilities’.
The decision comes in the backdrop of the massive spike in Mumbai’s Covid-19 tally which has severely strained the city’s health infrastructure. Bed-occupancy rates in Mumbai have already crossed 80 per cent, with more than 98 per cent Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and ventilator beds fully occupied.
Mumbai has been adding thousands of cases per day and the current active caseload of the city is at 85,494. BMC officials said that the really sick and needy patients were not getting admission to private hospitals, as the beds in private hospitals were already occupied by people who were Covid-positive but did not require medical intervention. BMC chief Chahal explained that the civic body found that although the oxygen levels and other parameters of some patients in private hospitals were normal, yet these people had procured beds for themselves, creating a shortage of beds for those who were in urgent needy and severely ill.
The BMC, along with private hospitals, would identify four- and five-star hotels, having a minimum of 20 rooms and convert these to a ‘step-down facility’ (one rung lower than a hospital). The BMC has said that those who did not require oxygen, ICU or ventilators in private hospitals could be shifted to these step-down centres.
“This decision was taken to ensure the availability of beds for needy patients by shifting those who had recovered substantially to the CCC2 facilities or these step-down facilities. By ‘needy’, we mean those with ‘mild or severe symptoms or a Covid patient with comorbidities”, Chahal clarified.
The protocol for shifting these patients entails the treating physician to ‘approve and certify’ the transfers. These patients will then be provided round-the-clock care by the hospital. The BMC has fixed the rate for this treatment at Rs 4,000 per day including meals, that would be paid to the hotels that have been acquired as step-down facilities. Hospitals will be allowed to charge patients ‘extra’ for medical expenses, doctor visits and other incidental charges, the BMC circular stated.
“This arrangement is comfortable for everyone and a win-win for all. These patients can go to four- or five-star hotels and get the same services from the hospital, and at the same time, beds in hospitals will be vacant and available for critical and needy patients. It is a good move, as it will also ramp up the number of beds in the city and help those who genuine deserve beds,” said Chahal.