How the pandemic transformed India’s conventional health infra

The pandemic has improved India’s health infrastructure by pushing both the government and private sector to incur unplanned expenditure on covid-19-related services. While the Centre spent more than ₹300 crore only on hospital equipment, private hospitals invested in large volumes of essential medical supplies and restructured hospital infrastructure to create isolation and quarantine facilities.

The Union Health Ministry has taken over 205 healthcare facilities for covid-19 treatment, including hospitals under the ministries of AYUSH, coal, defence, human resource development, home affairs, power, shipping, railways and steel, besides those operated by the departments of atomic energy and heavy industry, and the Employees’ State Insurance Corp. (ESIC). All the hospitals have undergone infrastructural changes as per covid-19 treatment requirements, including social distancing, isolation and quarantine facilities. Besides, all central government-run hospitals across 17 states have become dedicated covid-19 hospitals, having adopted major changes.

“In the last few months, we have spent over ₹300 crore in procuring equipment, beds, covid beds, oxygen cylinders, ventilators for tackling covid-19. The health crisis has brought a lot of changes in the central government-run hospitals in terms of infrastructure and functioning,” said Jitendra Arora, director, Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), Union health ministry.

“These were unanticipated and intensified unplanned investments for covid-19, but they will help in the long run. We have purchased ventilators, which will be used for pneumonia patients when covid is over. Ventilators have increased considerably, which help in handling more patients in future. We now have separate areas for covid-19 patients that will be used for other infectious diseases later,” he said.

With the private sector also at the front line of covid-19 response, hospitals not only had to invest in procuring large volumes of essential medical supplies, including personal protection equipment and respirators, but also had to restructure the hospital infrastructure to create isolation and quarantine facilities as well as fever clinics even before the government did.

“Covid-19 led to make massive investments for new equipment, air conditioning and introduction of Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. ICUs and CCUs had to be rearranged to address the distance requirements,” said Dr Alok Roy, chair, Ficci Health Services Committee, and chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals.

“A 500-bed hospital is likely to incur an additional expenditure of approximately ₹10 crore towards covid-19-related expenditure for FY21. Out of this, ₹5-6 crore was spent for civil costs related to fever clinics, sanitization tunnels, negative isolation zones and operation theatres with dedicated air-handling units, and specialized RT-PCR testing equipment for laboratory, etc. And the remaining investment was for operational expenses of these units,” he said.

Hospitals operated by corporates said there has been a huge increase in the use of sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers, besides higher power consumption. Furthermore, there were also challenges related to human resources, training staff for covid-19, and the need for more doctors and nurses, since they could work for seven days, and required to be quarantined for seven days, besides making provisions for transport and lodging. – Livemint

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