Home / News / India /  Covid-19: Why Mumbai's private hospitals, clinics haven't reopened despite order

MUMBAI: Lack of staff and personal protective gear have forced private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Mumbai to remain shut despite the state's repeated orders to them to resume operations.

On Wednesday, the municipal commissioner reportedly ordered ward officers to register criminal offence against private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes who have failed to reopen.

Doctors, however, said they were unable to open clinics due to non-availability of staff and personal protective equipments (PPEs).

"The fear of pandemic has driven people out of Mumbai. The ones who are left are forbidden by their families to step out. Plus, we do not have PPEs to offer them for their protection. A doctor needs assisting staff. How does the state expect us to function?" said a senior doctor who has his clinic in Parel, central Mumbai. He has even doubled his staff's pay to lure them back to work, he said.

Since the onset of coronavirus, a large number of patients in Mumbai have complained they are being turned away from hospitals for lack of vacancy or denied treatment due to fear of covid-19. Many clinics have preferred to remain shut. With most state-run hospitals having become covid-19 fighting zones, the municipal body has been requesting private clinics and nursing homes to open at least their out patient departments (OPDs) to attend to non-covid patients.

“We are reaching out to as many doctors as possible and asking them to open their clinics but the government needs to step in and solve the issue of PPE shortage and pricing," said Prakash Borana, president-elect of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Mumbai branch.

Borana added that for general practitioners, who run clinics with two to three staff, PPE costs are an average of 3,000 per day in addition to the salary and extra transportation costs due to lockdown restrictions. This is not viable for them.

"For now, we are trying to source as many PPE kits as possible from NGOs, but the talks are on with the government to provide kits free of cost to all the operational clinics in Mumbai. We are also trying to convince BMC to not lodge FIRs against doctors who are unable to open their clinics due to these issues, but they have the authority to do that and there is not much we will be able to do if they go ahead with these measures," he added.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region has 25,000 registered doctors of which 30% or nearly 7,500 doctors would be around 60 years of age. Rest 30% are employed with government hospitals.

"If a doctor is above 60 years old and co-morbid, he will not open his clinic. That is why we have given the doctors permission legally and officially to consult patients on telemedicine and telephone. The aim is to see that emergency patients get advice or treatment," said Shivkumar Utture, president, Maharashtra Medical Council.

The Maharashtra government had on 6 May issued a notification making it mandatory for private doctors in Mumbai to report to hospitals for treatment of coronavirus patients given their own clinics are shut.

"Doctors working in Mumbai and suburbs have been called. They are sitting at home, not even opening their private clinics. Given the increase in the number of cases we had to issue the notification," T.P. Lahane, director, Medical Education and Research, Maharashtra had told Mint on 6 May.

Since then, thousands of doctors have expressed interest in offering their services. But attending to covid-19 positive patients sans protective equipment could mean putting their lives on the line.

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