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Covid forces hospitals to rejig expansion plans | Kolkata News

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Kolkata: Covid has forced several private hospitals, which had been planning an expansion, to rush back to drawing boards and revise their projects.
While for some, the projects have been delayed, others have decided to go ahead with a restricted expansion in a desperate bid to enhance revenues. Yet others have stuck to their original expansion plan, taking the pandemic to be the right opportunity to enhance investment despite the barriers of logistics and funds.
Belle Vue Clinic had announced a massive expansion plan in 2019 that was deferred. It was to build two hospitals in New Town—a 400-bed multi-speciality hospital and a 168-bed general hospital. Both were to be inaugurated in 2023. But Covid has pushed back the projects by three years. “Due to the pandemic, we could not begin construction work last year, as had been planned. Now, there has been a sharp escalation in construction material cost, which has forced us to redraw the projects and invite fresh tenders. The project cost has been revised and we are working out the details. We hope to be able to start construction early next year and complete the hospitals by 2025-26,” said Belle Vue CEO P Tondon.
Peerless Hospital is ready to add a new unit at its existing premises off E M Bypass that will be shortly announced. According to hospital officials, Covid-induced rise in expenditure and revenue loss over the past 20 months have forced the hospital to think of ways to augment earnings. “In the prevailing situation, no hospital can afford to sit back and wait for things to get normal. Over the last year and half, it has been a roller- coaster ride for us with Covid patients swelling with the first and second waves and revenue from non-Covid treatment taking a hit. We need to expand, not only in terms of the number of beds but in other services as well,” said a Peerless official.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital has decided to go ahead with its Rs 600-crore expansion plan that includes new units in Kolkata, Siliguri and Ranchi. The group also plans to buy a hospital in Kolkata or in any other eastern city.
The new Medica units include a 200-bed oncology centre in Kolkata and a 100-bed general unit at its Siliguri hospital, apart from two 50-bed oncology units at Ranchi and Siliguri. “We are going to invest Rs 600 crore on expansion over the next one-two years. This is the right time to invest despite the pandemic and the challenges it poses. The healthcare market, in fact, will now expand due to the pandemic and we see a lot more spending on health over the next four years. While people have lost lives and have become cautious, the government, too, has realized the importance of health investment and introduced schemes, like Swasthya Saathi, that will encourage a demand for private healthcare services,” said Medica chairperson Alok Roy.
He added that health insurance now has a lot more takers. Medica’s new units in Kolkata and Siliguri will be functional by April, 2020, while the Ranchi unit will get off the blocks in September.
Woodlands Hospital is setting up a 100-bed advanced cancer unit. “We didn’t face any major delay or stoppage of work due to Covid,” said Rupali Basu, MD & CEO, Woodlands.
Ruby General Hospital chose to expand its existing 268-bed unit on E M Bypass despite Covid and the logistical difficulties that it posed. It has added 38 beds and will eventually have 356 beds by next year. “The project was announced before the onset of pandemic and we decided to go ahead with it. We needed to expand irrespective of the pandemic,” said Ruby general manager-operations Subhashish Datta.

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