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OPDs shut, surgeries put off: Private hospitals write to finance minister for emergency fund

Corporate hospitals have sought an emergency relief fund that could be released through pending payments under CGHS, ECHS, exemption of GST & loan moratorium.

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New Delhi: Amid a significant drop in footfall and postponement of surgeries due to coronavirus infections, corporate hospitals have reached out to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to seek an emergency relief fund “to tackle this pandemic effectively”, ThePrint has learnt. 

In a letter titled “COVID-19 affecting survival of hospitals”, the corporate hospitals such as Fortis Healthcare, Max Healthcare, Medanta, Narayana Health and BLK Hospital — represented by the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) — have highlighted “a cash flow crunch” saying footfall has dropped by over 70 per cent due to the coronavirus fear.  

They have requested an emergency relief fund that could come through release of pending payments under the government schemes such as the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS). 

The letter dated 27 March, a copy of which was accessed by ThePrint, also requested exemption of GST and moratorium on the loans taken by companies running the hospitals. 

“To tackle this pandemic effectively and to treat large number of patients, the hospitals all across the country have to be in a state of the highest level of performance, for which the monetary compensation required for, would go a long way in ensuring this,” said the letter signed by Dr Girdhar J. Gyani, director general, AHPI.

Gyani told ThePrint approximately Rs 500 crore is pending towards various private hospitals across India.


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OPD closed, surgeries postponed

The AHPI letter, a copy of which is also marked to the Prime Minister’s Office, Heath Secretary Preeti Sudan and Joint Secretary, Health, Lav Aggarwal, said, “COVID-19 infection, which has spread across the length and breadth of our country, has created a sense of fear in the minds of the public.”

Due to this fear, it said, the number of patients visiting hospitals has drastically come down “by over nearly 70%”.

The letter added, “As per the directives of the Government, selective surgeries have also been postponed. Routine OPD clinics have also been closed. In essence the patient footfall in the hospital all across the country is reducing day by day.”

This, it said, has resulted in a “cash flow crunch to the extent of about 75% and which is seriously affecting the operating revenue input” of the hospitals. 

“…consequent to this it has become extremely difficult to even pay the hospital staff, resulting in an embarrassing and precarious situation,” said the letter.

What the hospitals want

The AHPI, which represents 2,500 speciality and 8,000 smaller hospitals across India, has demanded an immediate release of the outstanding payments from all government health schemes. 

It also seeks exemption of input GST on any procurement by the private sector hospitals, for any goods or services procured for providing in-patient services, or refund of the input GST while procuring any goods or services used in provision of in-patient medical services. 

The hospitals have also demanded “9-12 months moratorium for the loans that have been taken by companies without any impact on the credit rating”. 

“This is crucial as we need to keep hospitals running to be prepared for any untoward eventuality due to COVID fall out,” said the letter. “Most importantly our country is going through a phase of Corona infection wherein global experts have predicted that the worst is yet to come.”

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  1. Distressing. The private healthcare system is required, as are military facilities, to supplement the public healthcare system, which will bear the brunt of dealing with Covid 19. Journalist Anuradha Shukla, whose brother works with King George Hospital in Lucknow, has tweeted : I spoke to my brother, a doctor today after days ! Real mess is inside hospital. Critical illness. Lack of ventilators. Things are very grim. And hospitals are voluntary – voluntarily – going for pay cut to buy protective gear as government support is stuck in red tapism.

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