Wounded by strict regulations
In June this year, Dr Parvez Shaikh decided to shut down his 60-year-old Charak Nursing Home at Charni Road.
"Running nursing homes has become a huge administrative hassle, especially with the civic body making new rules every year," said Dr Shaikh, a consultant colo-rectal surgeon at Saifee Hospital, Charni Road and Nova Specialty Surgery Centres. Dr Shaikh had been running the nursing home for more than 20 years.
Stringent norms and new regulations introduced over the past few years have compelled several nursing homes in the city, especially in south Mumbai, to shut down. Cheaper than corporate hospitals, these nursing homes cater to a large part of the city's population, say doctors. "Of the 650-odd nursing homes registered with us, about 20% (mostly in south Mumbai) have shut down. Every year, two or three nursing homes shut in this area," said Dr Manoj Gandhi, secretary, Bombay Nursing Homes Association.
Doctors say an increasing number of stipulations have been laid down by the civic body to run nursing homes, particularly since 2009. These include a mandatory 'change of user' certificate, separate entry and exit to nursing homes, and, most recently, stringent fire safety norms. However, in a city where most nursing homes are lodged in residential colonies, and are more than 50 years old, doctors say it is nearly impossible to adhere to these norms.
"The cost and hassle of running a nursing home is so much more than running a private practice," said Dr Mukesh Gupta, former officer bearer, Association of Medical Consultants (AMC). Dr Gupta, who edits Grasp, a quarterly magazine, said he receives several advertisements for rent or sale of plots housing nursing homes that have now shut down.
The gradual dwindling of these nursing homes could be a huge disadvantage to city residents, for whom these are a cheaper alternative to private hospitals. Shubhangi Vasudev, 78, had her grandchild delivered at Patwardhan Maternity Home, Girgaum, thirty years ago. "It was convenient for us as it was close to our home," she said. The nursing home shut down around ten years ago.
Last year, many maternity homes complained of harassment by civic officials conducting raids to check compliance of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act and more recently, the Medical Termination of Abortion Act. The Food and Drug Administration also cracked down on them to check records and paper work regarding storage of medicines.
Another legislation that doctors said threatened the existence of nursing homes is the Clinical Establishment Act. The rules are likely to be passed by the state assembly in the winter session in November. The Act will overrule the existing Bombay Nursing Homes Amendment Act, 2005, and stipulates several rules and regulations which include stablilising a patient who requires emergency care and other mandates that nursing home owners say are difficult to follow because most run on bare minimum staff.