Amid a decline in the number of coronavirus cases across the city, the private hospitals are now planning to reduce COVID-19 beds post-Diwali festival. Currently, 52.5 percent of beds reserved for treating the pandemic patients are lying vacant at various private hospitals in the city. Doctors said they are facing huge financial loss due to which they are planning to use them for non-COVID patients.
According to the BMC Dashboard, a total of 4,192 beds have been reserved at various private hospitals for coronavirus patients, of which 2,204 beds are lying vacant now. Similarly, as many as 422 of 1,007 ICU beds are also lying vacant which is almost 42 percent of the total facility earmarked for the pandemic patients.
Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant general physician, Bombay Hospital and head of the COVID-19 beds in private hospitals, said they have witnessed more numbers of non-COVID patients as compared to COVID patients since the lockdown relaxation due to which they are planning to use the vacant beds for the non-coronavirus patients.
“If Mumbai doesn’t witness the second wave, we might decrease the number of COVID-19 beds and utilise them for non-COVID patients post-Diwali festival,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state government is expected to extend yet again the price cap on 80 percent of COVID-19 beds in private hospitals. The state government's order extending the price cap on 80 percent of beds for COVID-19 patients (80 percent of total operational bed capacity is regulated by BMC) was issued on August 31 and is valid until November 30.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has extended their support to the decision to bring down the dedicated COVID beds as the demand for non-COVID-19 patients has increased by almost 60 percent in the last two months with the relaxation of lockdown.
Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, IMA- Maharashtra, said if Mumbai witnesses the second wave, then the authorities can always bring back the rules and if the government wants to keep the beds reserved at least, they should pay the basic expenditure amount. “It is better to reintroduce it rather than keeping the empty beds reserved. Hospitals need to pay money from their pockets for the maintenance of the beds and the equipment,” he said.
However, a section of senior doctors have cautioned that the decision to reduce beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients should not be taken immediately after Diwali as they cannot predict whether cases will drop or increase.
“In the initial months of the pandemic, there were severe shortages of beds. Patients have died while waiting for beds. So, it is advisable to wait longer before reducing the number of the beds especially when we are expecting a rise in cases after Diwali,” said a senior doctor.