The unfortunate death of 10 Covid-19 patients in a fire mishap in Swarna Palace Hotel in Vijayawada has once again exposed the lack of proper health infrastructure in the country especially when such a massive pandemic situation arises.
Setting aside the blame game and political mudslinging, it is a matter of serious concern as to why hotels are being converted into covid care centres.
The answer is simple: the number of Covid-19 positive cases have been very high over the last few days and people are getting panicky with every passing day.
The medical and health department authorities have been campaigning extensively that there is no need for any fear psychosis, as those who test positive for Covid-19 don’t have to rush to hospitals for treatment, but can get cured by getting treatment at home. Only those with high degree of symptoms and co-morbidities have to be admitted to the hospitals.
Yet, the patients with Covid symptoms are coming in large numbers to the hospitals for admission for various reasons: their neighbours might not be allowing the patients to stay in their homes; the patients themselves do not want elders and youngsters contract the virus if they stay at home or they might not have separate rooms to get quarantined.
This is resulting in lack of availability of beds at home. While the facilities in the government hospitals are inadequate, those who can afford are rushing to private hospitals. But the private hospitals, too, are not able to cope up with the increasing demand for beds.
So, they have entered into a tie-up with hotels for accommodating patients with mild symptoms and those required just comfortable stay with food and medicines. And hotels have readily accepted this, because they have been suffering huge losses for the last five months due to sharp fall in occupancy.
Thus, the hotels have seen it as an opportunity to make some money. They are charging Rs 2,500 to Rs 12,000 per day depending on their range for providing accommodation and food, while the hospitals with whom they have tie-up will charge the patients for medicine and nursing care.
That is how, Swarna Palace had accommodated as many as 31 patients who are mostly asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms. Majority of them were cured and were ready to be discharged, only five of them were still positive and were undergoing treatment, when the fire mishap occurred.
It is not exactly known how the accident happened – whether it was due to short circuit in the electrical wiring or negligence by the hotel staff in indiscriminately using sanitisers that caught fire.
So, who has to take the blame for the accident?