How city gave Maha its biggest quarantine unit within 60 hrs

Published on Mar 27, 2020 12:50 AM IST
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ByRupsa Chakraborty

A little more than a year after Seven Hills Hospitals in Marol had to close down, it’s been revived by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to run the biggest Covid-19 quarantine facility in Maharashtra.

Before Seven Hills Hospital could be turned into a quarantine centre, BMC contractors and hundreds of workers had a lot of work to do. “The lifts weren’t functional, there was no electricity or water. The place wasn’t sanitised and they didn’t even have any PPE [personal protective equipment] for doctors,” said the officer. It took 60 hours to make the hospital suitable to screen thousands of travellers every day. Dr Maharudra Kumbhar, officer on special duty, Seven Hills Hospital said, “We even had to get equipment from contractors on an immediate demand. We also had to install TVs and wifi in all eight wards.”

On March 10, when Mumbai recorded its first case of the highly-contagious Covid-19, the city had only one quarantine centre, with 22 beds, in Kasturba Hospital. Considering Mumbai’s population of approximately 20 million and high density levels, health officials knew it was imperative more beds be organised with immediate effect. BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi decided to turn Seven Hills Hospital into a quarantine facility with potentially 1,700 beds.

When approached by the civic body, hospital authorities cooperated despite the legal wrangle in which the two parties are engaged. “The hospital and the BMC are stuck in a legal battle. To start the hospital, BMC needed to take permission from the existing chief executive officer which thankfully, he readily gave,” said a health officer on condition of anonymity.

The quarantine facility was opened on March 18 and travellers from the international airport in particular were brought to the hospital for screening. In the initial days, the pressure on the hospital was tremendous. Dr Kumbhar is the father of a two-year-old daughter and has gone home to Kandivli only twice in the last 10 days. Dr Mohan Joshi, dean of Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital, who is currently leading the hospital, has been living at the hospital guest house. “Under the Hippocratic oath, we are bound by the duty to our patients over our families in a pandemic situation,” he said.

According to Dr Joshi, the hospital has attended to 350 patients in eight wards till Thursday and 120 patients have been discharged. “We don’t have testing facilities, but we collect samples and send them to Kasturba Hospital for analysis. So far, 275 samples have been sent for testing,” said Joshi. As HT has reported earlier, BMC has plans to add 150 beds to the hospital’s current strength of 350. In addition to this, two beds under intensive care unit (ICU) will be added to the facility with 30 ventilators. The hospital is fumigated every hour and is heavily guarded. Only authorised personnel may enter after several rounds of checking.

The hospital staff work in three shifts, with 100 doctors, 150 nurses and another 150 class IV employees in each shift. “When I was told that I would have to work in the Covid-19 quarantine centre, I was scared. Hundreds of medicos had been affected with the virus in China while treating patients. But nothing can match our happiness when we see travellers going back to their homes,” said a nurse at the facility.

At present, some of those on duty at Seven Hills Hospital are able to take a breather. “Currently, there is no rush of patients as all the flights have been cancelled. But even a week ago, we didn’t even get time to sit down as thousands of travellers would come for screening,” said a fourth-year MBBS student from King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Parel.

In 2005, the BMC entered into a contract with Seven Hills Healthcare Pvt Ltd, according to which the latter was given permission to construct a 1,496-bed hospital in Marol, in which 20% of the beds would be reserved economically-disadvantaged patients. By 2017, the hospital was running into financial trouble. Also, the civic body alleged the hospital was not abiding by the terms of the lease contract and had not paid its annual rent of Rs 10 lakh. In 2018, the BMC issued a termination notice to Seven Hills Hospital and the hospital approached the courts.

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