To free up beds in private hospitals occupied by patients who do not need hospitalisation, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on April 15 said that it would convert four- and five-star hotels into Covid care centres or ‘step-down facilities’ for patients who did not require medical intervention.
However, on the ground, the initiative is yet to be rolled out seamlessly, with one such step down facility having remained only on paper.
The BMC’s notification on step down facilities stated that Bombay Hospital at Marine Drive was supposed to tie-up with Hotel InterContinental, and HN Reliance Hospital with Trident Hotel at BKC.
When FPJ contacted the coordinator for Hotel InterContinental on Marine Drive, identified only as `Ms Ekta’ in the BMC notification, she said the hotel was not currently accommodating COVID-19 positive patients in its rooms. "The information is false and no such directions have come from BMC. In our hotel we are not allowing any COVID-19 patients,” said Ekta, who said there was no such tie-up with Bombay Hospital.
Asked about this, Dr Gautam Bhansali of Bombay Hospital said, "Due to some problems, the hospital has not tied-up with InterContinental Hotel at Marine Drive. However, other hotels located near the hospital have shown interest. For instance, another hotel on Marine Drive is offering some rooms."
Bhansali explained that step down facilities will come into play only when there are no beds available in hospital, which is not the case so far. He said Bombay Hospital has 120 beds for COVID-19 patients, and currently seven beds are vacant.
When FPJ spoke to the designated contact for the step down facility at BKC Trident, Shailesh Mishra, he said that patients will be allowed only through hospitals and no COVID-19 positive patient can book a room directly. Mishra refused to comment further.
As per the BMC, the protocol for shifting such patients to hotels entails the treating physician approving and certifying the transfers. These patients will then be provided round-the-clock care by the hospital.
Meanwhile, the hotels' associations have welcomed the initiative. Pradeep Shetty - joint secretary FHRAI (Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India) said, "The BMC this time has clearly stated that bills of hotels will be paid directly by hospitals. Therefore, we welcome the move."
When the first lockdown was imposed, several hotels in Mumbai had reportedly complained that they had not been paid as per the rates agreed with the BMC.
Asked whether hotels were reluctant to become step down facilities, Shetty said, “It may be because hotels are working at 10-20 per cent of staff capacity. When a hotel allows Covid-19 positive patients, strict protocol has to be followed. A few hotels might refuse to offer the service due to shortage of manpower and other reasons. However, many hoteliers are willing to do so, especially when the city is going through such hard times." He asserted that the association has already asked all its associated hoteliers to support the BMC.