9 civic hospitals to quickly give low-cost personal care in ICUs

MUMBAI: The BMC’s standing committee on Wednesday approved the major portion of a proposal by the civic administration to appoint a private agency to manage ICUs at in the suburbs, though not without debate. The full proposal—necessitated by an acute shortage of doctors—was for 12 civic hospitals, divided into four groups. The committee, which comprises corporators, cleared all groups except the first.
When the proposal—to increase the number of beds at the peripheral hospitals from 40 to 200 and continue the service as private for efficiency, but not at extra cost to patients—came up for clearance at the Shiv Senadominated standing committee, it was greeted with a heated argument.

Opposition corporators voiced the oft-repeated fear about the demerits of privatisation of healthcare, citing the BMC’s previous failed experiments with public-private partnerships (PPPs), mainly one with Seven Hills Hospital, Andheri. But the director of the BMC’s hospitals, Dr Avinash Supe, said that despite several attempts, the civic body wasn’t able to get doctors to work in the suburban hospitals. “It was thence decided to rope in a private agency to provide manpower to operate 180-200 ICU beds,” Dr Supe said.

The hour-long debate that followed the proposal’s tabling resulted in the first part, concerning 52 proposed ICU beds at three hospitals in Bandra, Santacruz and Jogeshwari (see graphic for this and other details), getting rejected. But in the next few minutes, the remaining three parts, comprising 148 ICU beds at nine hospitals, were hurriedly passed.

This resulted in Congress and NCP members walking out of the meeting. Ravi Raja (Congress) said, “The hurry with which the three remaining proposals were cleared has created suspicion in our minds. It appears the Sena, the ruling party, is privatizing BMC-run hospitals.”

Dr Supe said there should be no such fears. “For the last few years, we have been managing 40 ICU beds in a few of our suburban hospitals on the PPP model,” he said. As this has worked effectively, a proposal was made to increase the number of such beds. Moreover, as most peripheral hospitals don‘t have ICU beds, patients needing critical care are shifted to the four major BMC hospitals, adding to their burden. “Doctors in our medical college-cum hospitals (Nair, Mumbai Central; KEM, Parel; Sion Hospital; Cooper, Andheri) are overworked and the infrastructure overloaded. Hence having more ICU beds at peripheral hospitals will decongest our bigger hospitals and help patients,” said Dr Supe.

Patients will not have to pay extra for the private ICUs, for which the BMC will pay the selected agency () Rs 23 crore over two years. “The ICUs will be open to only our patients, not private ones,” Dr Supe, who is also dean, KEM Hospital, said.

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