A private ward inside Mumbai’s public hospital | Mumbai news

Mumbai: Eight years after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) opened its first affordable private ward in public hospitals the city’s KEM hospital refurbished its 17-room private ward and opened it to the public earlier this week.

Ward number 39 on the 11th floor of the multi-storey building now boasts of a brown carpet, cream colored wall-paper and new beds in each of the 17 rooms, of which five are air conditioned. Inaugurated on Wednesday, air-conditioned rooms cost 1,200 and non-AC beds cost 900 per day. The rooms have common toilets.

“Having private rooms may help us offer services to a section of the population that cannot afford the exorbitant rates of private sector but also finds it difficult to adjust in the general wards of public hospitals. The rates of our paid beds are not very high,” said Dr Sangeeta Ravat, dean of the KEM Hospital.

The KEM Hospital however, was already charging a nominal 200 for patients who requested a private bed instead of the dormitory-style general ward bed. This was often used by medical professionals, politicians and corporate employees. In 2018, a civic body resolution fixed differing rates for AC and non-AC beds, following which the rates were increased.

The civic body now plans to increase the surgical and investigation charges for patients who opt for paid beds. For instance, major surgeries cost 5,000 and minor surgeries cost 2,000 in the civic hospitals. It is proposed to increase these rates to 10,000 and 4,000 respectively for private ward patients. Similarly, an MRI which costs 2,500 in general category would be 5,000 in the private category.

“The plan is to double the charges,” Ravat said.

The civic body first introduced the initiative of private wards in the BDBA Hospital in Kandivli after it was redeveloped and opened in September 2013. The hospital has 30 private rooms with attached toilets, including eight air-conditioned rooms. In October that year, the redeveloped HBT Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari was inaugurated. It had 25 private rooms attached with toilets. The redeveloped RN Cooper Hospital which was inaugurated in November 2013 also set aside 51 private rooms.

While the private beds in BDBA and HBT Trauma care are still operational, RN Cooper Hospital converted them into rooms for resident doctors and for use by other medical departments, as the hospital became a medical college in 2015.

Civic authorities believe that a section of the middle class that cannot afford overpriced private healthcare would be keen to access the private wards in public health centres. If successful, other civic run tertiary care hospitals such as BYL Nair in Mumbai Central and LTMG in Sion will make way for similar private rooms.

“The price is lower than the per day bed charges of private hospitals,” said Dr Mohan Desai, head of the orthopedic department of the KEM Hospital. “Many patients are keen to get treatment under civic doctors only but want some privacy in the rooms where they can stay with a relative. With a nominal charge, the private ward will be a good option for such patients,” he said.

Most general awards in public hospitals do not have side beds for relatives. The relative sleep on the floor within the ward or in the corridors.

“There were not many takers for these private rooms as the concept was not publicized enough,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani adding that by the time the plan to publicize the concept could materialize, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“We don’t have 100% occupancy in the paid beds,” said Dr Pratima Patil, the medical superintendent of BDBA Hospital. “Most people who ask for these beds are from the middle class,” she said.

“The civic systems are not bifurcated, and thus, a private category patient lands up in the same queue for a blood test or an X-ray as the general category patient. This will become a point of contention eventually,” a senior doctor at the hospital said, seeking anonymity.

“The aim should be to upgrade the overall patient facilities, instead of offering better facilities at a cost,” said health activist Girish Bhave from Jan Arogya Abhiyan. “Why should poor patients get treatment in badly maintained wards with unclean toilets and poor infrastructure? Don’t they deserve better public facilities?”


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