With daily Covid-19 cases in Mumbai ranging from 100 to 200 and hospital occupancy at a low, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is likely to decide to close some of the city’s big Covid facilities. Three major facilities will be kept, according to sources: Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Byculla (Richardson and Cruddas), and Worli (NSCI), as well as the Seven Hills Hospital in Marol, which will continue to operate 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.
The city has a total of nine mega centres. While eight of these centres were erected on open grounds and are considered temporary, the Seven Hills facility was established in an already existing hospital.
The employees at the large facilities were employed on 60 or 90-day contracts. Each jumbo centre has its own set of contract terms and restrictions. Some centres featured a condition that said that the contract may be terminated within 24 hours, while others stated that a week’s notice was required.
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