There was a lot of buzz after government of Maharashtra notified it had taken control of 80% of the total operational beds in the private hospitals, while capping treatment costs to the lowest rates applicable in the MMR regions and Pune and that this would be effective till August 31. The government also allowed hospitals to charge their regular rack rates for the remaining 20% beds. The state also invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2005, and directed medical staff to return back to work without fear of job loss or health risk. Many private hospitals that have been operating have been working with skeletal staff over the last two months because of absenteeism due to the uncertainty, fear and stigma attached to the virus.
At a time when all sections of the society have come together to help the state tide over this crisis, the COVID fear had led to many private nursing homes remaining closed and those that were opening were prone to over-charging. There were enough and more bills floating around social media that was a cause for concern about arbitrary charges. In many instances, non-COVID patients were also suffering due to their inability to get treatment. Hence, the state government was forced to intervene and ensure the cooperation of private hospitals as well as ensure quality health is provided at affordable rates for both Covid and Non-Covid treatment.
The order from the state government came after an order dated May 1 to cap the prices of a host of medical procedures in private hospitals as well as charitable hospitals in the state to prevent hiked-up charges because of the Covid-19 crisis. Most of these hospitals did not implement the order and approached the government to re-consider its order, citing potential losses and impact on the salaries of healthcare workers. This concern was resolved too by the state government.
The Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be a never-seen-before challenge that the world is facing; there could be some gaps in the implementation of combating the virus but how soon these gaps are filled is the strength of governance. How quickly we overcome this challenge will be an example for humanity in times to come. Let history not judge us harshly for choosing to profiteer over serving people during a pandemic. Hence it is heartening to note that every section is chipping in but they need a bit of steering; this the state government has managed to do. The measures taken by the state government in the directive to take over 80% of beds in private hospitals has been arrived at after taking all concerns into mind and resolving them; hence, this has been welcomed by all.
In Mumbai alone, this will open up around 4,400 hospital beds in the private sector besides the ones available in government hospitals, which till now have been bearing nearly 80% of the Covid-19 burden. Maharashtra accounts for a third of all cases in India and Mumbai has been facing the maximum brunt. It is important to understand the demographic challenge of Mumbai. The population density of Mumbai is at 73,000 people per sq mile, which makes the city one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. Mumbai, with a per capita income of approximately $2800, has seen nearly 28,000 COVID cases and 909 deaths. This data explains that despite all that Mumbai is being accused of and politicised for, its strategy of aggressive testing is helping identify and isolate patients for treatment. Those who wish to politicise or play the blame game refuse to acknowledge or even understand the geographical challenges that prevail , as also the measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. The first Covid case in Maharashtra was identified in Pune and since then the numbers increased rapidly, but so did the tests and treatment.
While Mumbai did see its death rate climb up to 7 per centsix weeks ago, it has dropped steadily since then, and currently stands at 3.5 per cent. The state has also recorded the highest number of recoveries till date - 12,583 patients. The state government, despite handling the challenges that exist, is also forced to face an opposition party that has made it their political agenda to not cooperate but create conflict.
What has been the biggest motivator is the support of the people of the state. It is a challenge we have never faced before but we are determined to face it with all our might and unity, apart from unnecessary criticism of the opposition.
(Priyanka Chaturvedi is Member of Rajya Sabha and Deputy Leader Shiv Sena)
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