Row over bed reservation for COVID patients under government quota

Private hospitals are concerned on whether govt. will pay for beds if they remain unused

Private hospitals in Karnataka are again in a confrontation with the State Health Department over reserving 50% beds for government-referred COVID-19 patients.

Although the State Government has directed private hospitals to reserve 50% beds for government quota COVID-19 patients, private hospital managements said it may take a couple of weeks to begin the system as they already have other non-COVID patients admitted.

While the hospitals are not against setting aside beds for the government-referred patients, their main concern is whether the government will pay for the beds if they remain unused.

“We had demanded payment of at least 25% of the fixed cost per day towards each unoccupied bed during both the first and second waves. But that was not paid. Setting aside beds does not mean we release only the bed. It comes with adequate staff and other medical resources. Will the government pay us for the unused beds at least this time,” asked H.M. Prasanna, president of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA).

“While we have no objection to reserving 50% as we had done last year, beds in most hospitals are now occupied by non-COVID-19 patients. We cannot discharge them suddenly. I will write to the government on Saturday stating that beds can be released in a phased manner as and when the beds fall vacant. It will take at least another 10 days for us to do so,” he toldThe Hindu.

Last year too, a cold war had ensued between the government and private hospitals over bed allocation. While private hospitals demanded that the 50% reservation should be for both government referred and private walk-in patients, the government wanted 50% only for government-referred patients.

There had been instances wherein officials shut out-patient departments of several hospitals that did not comply with the order.

Dr. Prasanna said PHANA had requested BBMP Commissioner Gaurav Gupta to ensure that such “ugly scenes” did not recur this time.

However, State Health Commissioner D. Randeep said there was no concept of payment for unused beds. “We have told the private hospitals to cooperate and release the beds immediately. This is not the first time that they have been asked to do so,” he said.

Pointing out that although the hospitals had been directed to release the 50% beds by Friday (January 7), he said the enforcement was not immediate as the number of cases requiring hospitalisation were not too high as of now.

“But that does not mean they can refrain from complying with the government’s direction. They have to do it immediately as we cannot dismiss this wave lightly. The infection will not be mild for everyone. A considerable number will still require hospitalisation because the absolute numbers will be much higher this time,” the Commissioner added.

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