BMC to decide on shutting jumbo Covid facilities by next week
Makeshift jumbo centres at Dahisar, Goregaon, Malad, Sion and Kanjurmarg are likely to be dismantled.
Mumbai: With daily Covid-19 cases in Mumbai hovering between 100 to 200 and reduced hospital occupancy, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is likely to take a call on dismantling some of the jumbo Covid facilities in the city. Sources said that three jumbo facilities -- Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Byculla (Richardson and Cruddas) and Worli (NSCI) -- will be retained along with the Seven Hills Hospital in Marol, which will continue to function as an exclusive Covid centre.
Other makeshift jumbo centres at Dahisar, Goregaon, Malad, Sion and Kanjurmarg are likely to be dismantled. However, a final decision is expected by next week.
Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani told HT that the civic body will consult the state Covid-19 task force before finalising the decision to completely shut down any of the centres. “The daily occupancy in many of these centres has been in a single-digit since the past few days. While we will ensure that we are prepared for any newer threat, we will take the decision to shut down some of the jumbo centres completely,” he said.
On Thursday, only 739 (3.28 percent) out of the 22,467 hospitals beds, which includes beds in jumbo facilities, were occupied. Last month, during the peak of the third wave, the hospital occupancy had touched 20 percent. For instance, on January 4, 4,421 of the 22,205 beds in the city were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
In all, the city has nine jumbo centres. While eight of these centres can be termed as makeshift - built on open spaces - the Seven Hills facility was started in the already existing hospital.
The staff at the jumbo facilities were hired on short-term contracts of 60 or 90 days. The terms and conditions of the contracts varied in each jumbo centre. While some had a clause of discontinuation of contract within 24 hours, some centres mentioned a week’s notice.
In December, before the third wave kicked in, some of the jumbo centres reactivated their wards in phases and hired a limited number of medical, paramedical, housekeeping and other staff.
Altogether, the jumbo centres have over 15,000 Covid beds. The facilities in Malad, Kanjurmarg and Sion were the most recent additions and have been built by MMRDA, CIDCO and MHADA, respectively. A few beds in Malad and Kanjurmarg were commissioned during the third wave but their overall occupancy has been very low.
Civic sources said officials are still in two minds about dismantling the jumbo centres at Goregaon, Malad and Kanjurmarg. “The jumbo facilities definitely acted as a cushion or a buffer during the first and second waves,” said task force member Dr Shashank Joshi.
“In the third wave, they did provide some support, but the nature of the third wave was distinct than the first two,” he said.
Joshi refused to comment on whether it would be feasible to dismantle some of the jumbos. “It is the decision that the civic body will take,” he said, adding that the threat of an unusual, newer strain has not completely gone.
A dean of one of the jumbo facilities who refused to be identified said that the occupancy of jumbos during the third wave was extremely low. “Most of the centres did not even commission more than one ward,” he said.
According to rough estimates, basic operational costs of jumbo centres go upwards of ₹3 crore every month. A civic official said that as the threat of newer strain remains, retaining some of the jumbo centres will be enough to brace for it.