For asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic COVID-19 patients with varying degrees of deep pockets and a healthy aversion to hospitals, there’s an alternative: Many private hospitals and business-starved hotels have joined hands to make isolation not just palatable, but even a bit posh.
The initiative comes at a rather grim time for the city: the pandemic rampages while a beleaguered infrastructure is struggling to keep up. The new treatment option, authorities hope, will free up precious healthcare resources for the truly needy.
After months of bucking the national trend, especially in comparison with other Metros, COVID-19 positive cases in Bengaluru have risen alarmingly over the last few weeks. So much so that as of July 24, at a little over 29,000 active cases, the city accounts for more than half the nearly 50,000 cases in Karnataka.
The hotel-hospital plan
The State and city administration brainstormed with representatives from private hospitals and hotels in a series of meetings in late June and early July to allow this new mode of containing COVID-19.
After capping COVID-19 treatment prices in private hospitals (between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000 per day), the government also wanted hospitals and hotels to work together to set up COVID Care Centres (CCC). Strict norms were laid out for the hotels to follow.
“This was to handle asymptomatic-positive and mildly symptomatic patients who do not need critical care, who cannot isolate at home and who can afford to check into a hotel,” said Dr R Ravindra, president of the city-based Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA). He was present in the meetings called by the authorities.
Hotels that signed up to become extensions of hospitals are disallowed from having regular guests. Hotel staff are trained in various aspects of patient care including diet, since all meals are provided. Nurses are also posted for patient care. If complications arise, patients are shifted to the hospital.
“At the meeting, it was agreed that 3,000 rooms would be rolled out, but so far we have managed to set up just over 1,000. It is likely to remain at this number at least for the next couple of weeks,” Dr Ravindra said.
Good ideas take time
The going is admittedly slow. Hospitals too do not have enough people because their staff themselves often contract the virus and fall sick, Dr Ravindra, who runs his own hospital, said.
Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwantpur, has tied up with OYO Rooms and Fab Hotels to house patients within a 3-4 km radius. The hospital tied up for 38 rooms, but less than half are occupied.
“There was so much fear but as knowledge about it is increasing, people seem to be more willing to opt for it. In our experience, there have been two major kinds of people who have chosen this kind of isolation: those with aged parents and very young children at home. For them, this is the best way to isolate,” Dr Ananth N Rao, the hospital’s general manager.
The referral hospital offers a 14-day Comprehensive Care Package for Rs 17,000 but this is exclusive of room rent which is paid directly to the hotel, Rents start around Rs 2000 per day.
The package includes a COVID-19 kit to patients, complete with a pulse oximeter, digital thermometer, 3-ply face masks, a PPE kit, sanitiser and a chart to monitor vitals among other things. In addition, there are daily doctor and nurse video consultations, and optional nurse visits, said Dr Ananth.
When every bed matters
In the heart of the city, star hotel The Chancery Pavilion has turned more than 200 out of its 222-room inventory into isolation units for asymptomatic patients and tied up with two health facilities – Apollo Hospitals and Prakriya Hospitals. At the moment, however, only a few rooms are occupied.
“We have in-house doctors and nurses to take care of patients 24/7. Our doctor administers a clinical check up once a guest checks in and recommends the duration of stay. We have oxygen on every floor and a highly trained staff who follow all standard operating procedures and prescribed guidelines,” said Saswata Sanyal, director of sales and marketing.
The hotel has priced its packages at Rs 9,900 and Rs 11,900 per day, depending on the category of room. “We began offering these just recently and we have been getting several queries every day. At the moment, only a few rooms are occupied, but we foresee that changing soon,” he said.
As numbers continue to rise, the authorities seem to be scrambling to cobble together various initiatives to tackle it. On the face of it, this one appears to be a win-win move all around. The next few weeks will reveal if it is indeed so.
Some packages for isolation at home:
- Columbia Asia Sarjapur Road offers 7-day home quarantine packages starting from Rs 4,999 per person while Columbia Asia Hebbal offers a 14-day home isolation package for Rs 15,000.
- Fortis hospitals offers a 17-day home quarantine programme for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients for Rs 8,000.
- Apollo Hospitals has rolled out its Project Kavach initiative under which it offers two 14-day home isolation service – a basic plan for Rs 4,199 and an advanced plan for Rs 8,399.
- Portea Family Covid Armour offers monthly family packages starting from Rs 2,999.
- RxDx in Whitefield has home care services from Rs 350 a day.