At a time when the clash between private hospitals and the State government over bed allotment is showing no sign of resolution, the seven teams of IAS and IPS officers set up to inspect private hospitals have brought to the notice of the government that some hospitals are “manipulating” bed availability.
Tushar Girinath, State’s nodal officer for streamlining bed availability, told The Hindu that private hospitals have so far shared with the government only 1,200 beds of the nearly 13,000 available, which is less than 10%. “This means, the remaining beds are being used for their walk-in COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. Their claim of beds not being available is not justifiable,” he said.
“Although beds are mathematically available — going by the bed strength in each of the bigger hospitals — they are not available on ground. The hospitals claim that their bed strength mentioned during the KPME registration is not the actual figure. So, we had asked the seven teams of IAS and IPS officers to inspect each hospital and verify their admission data. They have been asked to find out from the hospital admission registers the highest number of occupied beds at any point of time. This will give us a picture of the actual bed strength,” he said. The initial indication is of a possible manipulation in some cases.
The official said the government was mulling over stringent action against such hospitals under the KPME and the National Disaster Management Acts that can include levy of heavy penalties and even cancellation of registration.
However, R. Ravindra, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said, “It is practically not possible to hand over 50% of beds in each hospital for government-referred patients. How do we accommodate walk-in COVID-19 patients, suspected cases, and non-COVID-19 patients in the remaining 50% beds? Also, several of our hospital staff are turning positive and we have to admit and treat them too.”
Plight of other patients
Meanwhile, the hardest hit in this tussle seem to be non-COVID-19 patients. What has aggravated the situation is the fact that most government hospitals have also been converted into exclusive COVID-19 facilities. This has meant that non-COVID-19 patients depend heavily on private hospitals.
While the State has been insisting that private hospitals should allot 50% of their beds for government referred COVID-19 patients, private hospitals argue that it is practically not possible to do so. The hospital heads say that they are willing to set aside 50% of their bed strength for overall COVID-19 patients, including government-referred ones and walk-ins, leaving the remaining half for treatment of other illnesses and suspected cases.
Dr. Ravindra contended that private hospitals had been repeatedly trying to bring the issue of shortage of beds for non-COVID-19 patients and suspected cases to the notice of the government. “I even raised this during the meeting with the Chief Minister. We will again write to the government on this issue. There should be a rethink on the government’s directive. We need to sort out this issue on an urgent basis to ensure non-COVID-19 patients get timely treatment,” added Dr. Ravindra.
Plan to take over small hospitals
The government is planning to take over smaller hospitals totally for COVID-19 patients as such hospitals will have a single entry point for all patients and it is risky to allow COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 treatment there, Mr. Girinath said.