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Hospitals should hold on in these difficult times while planning for better tomorrow

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Bomi Bhote, CEO Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune refutes the allegation that hospitals are overcharging while treating COVID-19 patients, listing the reasons why the cost of running a hospital during the time of COVID-19 is very high 

There is panic among people. It’s like any other viral infection but the panic that it has generated is huge. One of the main things is to manage the psychology of the people. To break this news that they are positive is creating a paranoid situation among people. The death rate is also one of the lowest when compared with other diseases. But the paranoid factor is much more than any other disease. People should be disciplined to wear the mask, follow social distancing, and washing hands.

For the next six to eight months living with COVID -19 is going to be a way of life for us. How to make our functioning smooth and simple is where the challenge lies while living with the COVID in the new normal.
The cost of running a hospital is very high during the time of COVID-19. Especially while treating COVID patients, the hospital is making huge investments in terms of PPE kits and many other things. These are considered as fixed costs for the hospitals. It is a major problem with us while running a hospital during COVID times. I can see that almost all the hospitals were running with 20 to 30 percent occupancy during the initial period of lockdown. Now as cases are increasing, we are seeing an increase in the number of patients.
In a typical hospital environment, your biggest cost is the salaries of the doctors and other manpower costs. This is compulsory payments for us whether the occupancy is high or low, it has to be paid. With these initial three months, when hospitals were running with low occupancy, payments for fixed costs had to be made. This material cost, manpower cost, and other fixed costs that form the majority expenses for the hospitals are making it difficult for the hospital  sector to sustain. None of us have laid-off workers or have stopped paying salaries or anything like that.
But we can not forget the other way round also, what has happened is the requirement for treating COVID patients. The manpower requirement is double for COVID patients. Because the dedicated COVID staff goes into quarantine for 15 days. So the number of people required is around 50 per cent more. We also have to take up hostels or hotels to make quarantine facility for COVID staff.
Losses that the hospitals are incurring for the last three months are phenomenal. All the hospitals should hold on in these difficult times while planning for a better tomorrow. They should cut the cost as far as possible. Whatever that can be done to cut the cost should be done.
The shortages of beds is definitely there. Overnight there is a high resurgence in cases. And we have a responsibility to non-COVID patients also. It is not true that hospitals are overcharging. Everybody is following government resolution when it comes to charging COVID patients.
During the time of the pandemic, we have realised the importance of good healthcare infrastructure that we should have in place. In a city like Pune, there are many government hospitals that are non-functioning. If the government is willing to do public-private partnerships in the future all the private hospitals would be willing to work with the government. The pandemic has led us all to build strong healthcare infrastructure for the future.

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