Dec 20Featured ArticleIssue

Healthcare Leader: Ayanabh Debgupta

Co-founder & Group President, Medica Hospitals

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic followed by nationwide lockdown is huge which is visible across various sectors. The healthcare sector is at the epicentre of this unprecedented crisis and has been gravely impacted in meeting the unparalleled demand and subsequent financial consequences. The pandemic is adversely impacting the private healthcare services making a deep dent in the revenues of the private hospitals.Due to the fear of getting infected and overall lack of liquidity in terms of regular cash flows, people with reasonable health-seeking behaviour avoided opting for treatment at private hospitals unless it became an absolute emergency. At Medica Superspeciality Hospital, the service utilisation numbers fell below average. Outpatient footfalls dropped below 50 per cent, bed occupancy rate across all major private hospitals plummeted to 20-25 per cent with only deliveries and emergency procedures/surgeries being performed and Average Revenue Per Occupied Bed (ARPOB) dropped by 30-40 per cent.Patients postponed their elective surgeries, leaving aside the otherwise steady flow of treatments related to chronic illness such as dialysis, chemotherapy, blood transfusion etc. Other services suffered a downfall with reduced patient footfall. Ban on international flights impacted medical tourism in the country.Patients visiting hospitals on emergency were considered as covid carriers. The need to sanitise premises and ensue.

personal protective gears for staff and testing of potential carriers among patients and staff increased the overall operational expenditure. Further quarantine measures for COVID positive staff affected the overall workforce. Under certain circumstances, hospitals reached out to their staff monetarily to support and encourage them during the pandemic. Adaptation of various operational consolidation and cost-cutting measures were undertaken by private hospitals across departments to ensure that business remains viable. Amidst low patient footfalls and significantly low revenue generation, the government’s decision to curb testing and treatment charges dealt a major blow to the hospitals.The healthcare industry should focus on sustainability, convertible designs and comprehensive infection control measures. Building a digital health infrastructure, improving procurement and supply chain systems with increased stockpiles of critical equipment will help in the long run in case an emergency arises.Making the right decisions and taking effective action will be possible only if new approaches to care delivery and financing are incorporated. Healthcare leaders must look into revamping some of the key areas of healthcare service delivery to bridge the gaps and meet the needs of the population in case of an emergency of similar nature in the future.Future healthcare systems should be well prepared to battle pandemics and other medical emergencies whenever they arise in the future. There is a need to critically evaluate our existing healthcare ecosystem, especially the critical care segment to determine our shortfalls in terms of the availability of an emergency plan and backup teams and resources. Whenever a similar pandemic strikes, an action plan needs to be in place that can be implemented in the shortest time frame – one that can be applicable across various settings of our healthcare system by removing bottlenecks and creating sufficient treatment centres, quarantine and isolation centres without affecting the non-pandemic affected general population. This can be done by involving the private healthcare – both in the healthcare segment and hospitality sector which can become isolation units.

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Supply chain systems were the major enablers during the pandemic even during the restricted movement and operating environment. Supply chains are under enormous pressure from end to end during such emergencies, to ensure delivery of lifesaving drugs, equipment and medical supplies. Alternative means to transport commodities will guarantee timely delivery of items. Thus, we need to build health systems that are more resilient, patient-centred and sustainable.Qualified and motivated human resources (HR) are essential for adequate health service provision. Healthcare leaders should not only focus on treating patients but also devote similar attention to the hospital staff’s physical and emotional health. Physical fitness and psychological counselling sessions should be provided for the staff. Hospitals should be by the side of the family members of caregivers who succumbed to the deadly virus. This will turn out a good example of compassion and care amongst the other hospital staff and enable an assurance. Appreciation posts through emails and display on staff notice board will ensure a sense of recognition amongst the staff. Further timely remuneration, performance bonuses and appreciation gifts can boost the morale of the staff.

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