Capital details plans to use hotels in Covid-19 war

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The Delhi government is preparing for a surge in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and plans to use a total of 40 hotels and 77 banquet halls as makeshift hospitals, a move that is expected to add over 15,800 beds to the city-state’s health care infrastructure, according to documents seen by HT. On Saturday, two top hotels in South Delhi, Vasant Continental and Hyatt Regency, were asked to place rooms at the disposal of the hospitals they were being attached to.

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Authorities plan to set up 11,229 beds in 77 banquet halls, which will function under the Delhi government, and 4,628 beds in 40 hotels, which will be supervised by private hospitals, a list released on Friday night showed. On May 29, the Delhi government identified the first five hotels in the first-of-its kind move in the country and issued an order to this effect.

“Today (Saturday), all district magistrates were asked to submit the time they will take to set up such facilities. The aim is to get the hotels and banquet halls readied within a week,” a senior government official said on the condition of anonymity.

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Patients opting for the hotel facility, which is primarily for those with moderate symptoms, will have to pay a minimum of Rs 63,000 a week if it’s a three- or four-star hotel. If it’s a five-star hotel, the weekly charge will go up to at least Rs 70,000. In addition, patients needing oxygen support will have to pay Rs 2,000 a day. The charges will vary with medical investigations, which private hospitals overseeing these facilities will bill at their own rates, and the duration of treatment.

The Delhi government move came against the backdrop of a spike in Covid-19 cases; the national capital added 2,134 new cases on Saturday to end the day with a total of 38,958 infections (22,742 of them active) and 1,271 fatalities. At present, Delhi’s bed capacity across private and government hospitals for Covid-19 patients stands at 9,698. Of them, 4,248 are vacant, according to Delhi’s coronavirus app dashboard. Between Monday and Saturday, Delhi has added 9,015 cases.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Wednesday that the city will need 150,000 beds by the end of July as he accepted Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s order overruling his government’s decision allowing only Delhi residents to be treated in government and private hospitals. And on June 7, while Kejriwal announced the reopening of malls, dine-in restaurants and places of worship after two-and-a-half months, he said hotels and banquet halls will continue to be closed as they will be used to augment the city’s health care infrastructure. Meanwhile, L-G Baijal, who is the chairperson of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, directed government officials to immediately start scouting for banquet halls, hotels and stadiums to increase the city’s bed capacity.

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Of the 11 districts in Delhi, Northwest District will have the maximum banquet halls (21) that will be turned into Covid-19 hospitals. West District will have the maximum such hotels (12).

The list of hotels include Maidens Hotel of the Oberoi Group in Civil Lines (supervised by Sant Parmanand Hospital); Hyatt Regency in Bikaji Cama Place (Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj); Park Inn by Radisson in Lajpat Nagar (Moolchand hospital); Hotel Ramada in Pitampura (Jaipur Golden Hospital); and Holiday Inn in Mayur Vihar (Apollo Hospital). The five hotels in the May 29 order were Crowne Plaza (Batra Hospital); Hotel Surya (Apollo); Hotel Siddharth (BL Kapur Memorial Hospital); Hotel Jivitesh (Sir Gangaram Hospital); and Sheraton Saket (Max Super Speciality Hospital)

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Officials in Apollo Hospitals, which will supervise five hotels, pointed to the challenges. “We reached out to two hotels, but they said they will let us start only after the judgment of the high court…We have not been able to do a recce,” a hospital official said, requesting anonymity.

On June 4, CHL Ltd, which owns and runs Surya hotel, approached the Delhi HC against the state government’s May 29 order directing five luxury hotels, including Surya and Crowne Plaza, to be converted into hospitals. The hotels argued that the government took the decision unilaterally and that they were not consulted.

The court directed on Thursday a committee of two doctors — All India Institute of Medical Sciences director Randeep Guleria and NITI Aayog member VK Paul — to check the plan’s feasibility. The matter will now be heard on Monday (June 15).

An official in Max Hospital, who asked not to be named, said work at Sheraton Hotels in South Delhi’s Saket was complete. Max is supervising four hotels. “We are treating several patients at Sheraton, which was among the first five hotels…However, we too have not been able to extend our services to the other hotels because they are all awaiting the court verdict,” said the official.

The Delhi government is setting up health care facilities on its own at the banquets. The fee structure for a banquet-turned-hospital was not immediately available.

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“All these facilities will have separate entry and exit points. A tender has already been floated for cots. The water and electricity bills that will be generated in these banquet halls/hospitals will be paid by the health department from its funds. The medical equipment and the staff will be arranged by the health department,” said a second government official.

The Delhi Medical Association, which is holding regular meetings with the state government to discuss bed augmentation plans, said the city-state’s administration has approached it for medical staff, including nurses.

“Nursing associations are also being reached out, but manpower is going to be a serious challenge,” said Dr Girish Tyagi, president of the association.

As for stadiums, the government plans to set up 2,500 beds at Pragati Maidan and 200 beds at Talkatora, emulating Maharashtra. “But stadiums need more medical engineering…We are first going with hotels and banquet halls, which are easier and quicker because their structure resembles that of hospitals; there are rooms and washrooms,” said an official in the health department who did not want to be named.

Dr Lalit Kant, the former head of epidemiology and communicable disease at Indian Council of Medical Research, said such arrangements should have been done by now. “…all that needs to be done is ramping up of health infrastructure as soon as possible. However, simultaneously, it is also very important to ensure strict enforcement of civic rules such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.”


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