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Private healthcare providers see green shoots of recovery

Healthcare sector in India which has been under severe financial stress due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic is seeing green shoots of recovery post lifting of lockdowns, according to leading private players.

“As the nation begins unlocking, we are confident of weathering the initial setbacks that we faced due to the lockdowns. Our hospital operations, including surgical work, are showing good improvement in the last two months and we have, in addition to our work for Covid-19 also accelerated the work on other diseases, especially NCDs,” said Apollo Hospitals MD Suneeta Reddy.

The company expects to see a sequential improvement as it moves ahead, and travel restrictions ease, she added. While the impact of Covid-19 was for only a few days in the last quarter of FY2020, the first quarter of FY2021 has withstood the peak of the lockdown and the containment measures, Reddy said. On the challenges, the group hospitals have faced, Reddy said: “The most important challenge has been to prepare very quickly and comprehensively for handling both Covid and non-Covid cases within our hospital facilities.”

Apollo Hospitals made several infrastructure modifications that were needed to put in place an iron curtain between Covid and non-Covid such that we are able to treat both sets of patients safely, she added. “We also worked on taking the message of safety to consumers, because we understood that there is a sense of fear at play about visiting a hospital for other ailments,” Reddy said.

In a similar vein, Max Healthcare Senior Director and CFO Yogesh Sareen said that Covid-19 has impacted footfalls and revenues significantly. The impact of nation-wide lockdown in April was all-pervasive. On being asked when does the healthcare chain expect the business to attain the pre-Covid levels, Sareen said: “We expect the domestic patients’ situation to normalize in Q-3 FY21 and since we also have a reasonable part of our revenues from international patients, the full stabilization will occur only once international travel is allowed.”

Stating that hospitals are under tremendous stress owing to the drop in non-Covid patients and many other related challenges, Columbia Asia Hospitals India Chairman CEO and GMD Nandakumar Jairam said: “Revenues are still low and not likely to pick-up until this pandemic is brought under control. This will happen with an increase in elective cases. We do not see this happening until December or later.” Expressing similar sentiments, Narayana Hrudayalaya Group COO Viren Prasad Shetty said: “Revenues are picking up slowly because of continued Covid spread and movement restrictions across the country.

Barring any further restrictions or second wave of infections, we should achieve breakeven revenue by the second quarter”. Pointing out that the pace of recovery will be gradual, P D Hinduja Hospital CEO Gautam Khanna said: “The revenues are picking up now, but slowly. Many non Covid- 19 patients who had postponed their planned surgeries and procedures are coming to the hospital for treatment with the lockdown restrictions being eased. But, still, it is not close to the pre-Covid revenue”. The recovery will be gradual and the time by when the hospital can reach pre-Covid levels depends on how the pandemic progresses, he added. –  PTI



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