Private hospitals reluctant to join vaccination drive in state
Only 300 of the 1,300 private hospitals are administering vaccine to beneficiaries, say health authorities
Though the Centre has allowed all private hospitals to conduct round the clock vaccination sessions, lukewarm participation of private hospitals in Punjab is hampering the state’s vaccination drive amid the second wave of pandemic.
As per state health department, 1,291 private hospitals, both empanelled and non-empanelled with Ayushman Bharat Yojana, providing access to healthcare to the people, have been registered in the state to give Covid-19 vaccine. However, only 300 (24%) of the total hospitals are organising regular vaccination sessions while the remaining are showing reluctance in joining the state government in containing the Covid spread.
The central government had capped the cost of inoculation in private hospitals at ₹250 a dose while vaccination for people visiting government facilities is free of cost.
Besides private facilities, 524 primary health centres, 152 community health centres, 42 sub-divisional hospitals and 22 district hospitals are also administering vaccines to the people across the state.
Experts believe that due to lack of private hospitals’ participation, the state’s vaccination drive may be slowed further when a huge rush of population between 45 to 60 age groups will look out for vaccination sites from April 1.
“Covid vaccination centres should have effective crowd management protocols in place, along with adequate space and facilities for seating, water, proper signage, etc. Hospitals need also to ensure adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour among the beneficiaries to start the vaccination process on their premises. However, not all private hospitals in Punjab have sufficient space and facilities to conduct the vaccination. Many hospitals have inadequate staff and manpower to handle the crowd of beneficiaries,” said state nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Rajesh Bhaskar.
He added: “In Punjab, 588 private hospitals are empanelled with the central government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme and such hospitals have enough space to vaccinate people and to keep them under observation for 30 minutes. Even though these hospitals can easily start the vaccination process, not many are coming forward to buy the vaccine from the state health department. Since the state will start administering jabs to people above the age of 45 from April 1, we are expecting more private hospitals to join the vaccination drive as they will get more benefit.”
“The district administrations have been asked to act strictly against such hospitals as private hospitals need to join the government battle against Covid,” he said, adding that government facilities are receiving better response from people than the private hospitals.
“My hospital has five rooms and we cannot spare three rooms for the vaccination process. A hospital must have a separate room for registering beneficiaries and for their identification, another room for inoculation and a third room for keeping people under observation. Also, many hospitals do not have enough cold storage facilities for keeping vaccine”, said one Amritsar-based private hospital owner.
Hussan Lal, principal secretary health, Punjab, said: “Of the ₹250 capped price per vaccine dose, the hospital gets a benefit of ₹100 while they pay ₹150 to the government for purchasing the vaccine. However, due to commercial considerations, many private hospitals are not willing to start the vaccination process at their centres.”
Acting on state government’s directions, additional deputy commissioner (ADC) of Amritsar, Himanshu Aggarwal said, “In Amritsar, 66 private hospitals are operating as vaccination centres. We are conducting regular meetings with the hospital owners and are convincing them to join the government’s efforts to control the second wave.”