BENGALURU: The lockdown has impacted the private health sector and this in turn could mean job losses, pay cuts or deferred salaries in the coming months for doctors, nurses and other medical staff. The drop in patient occupancy and continuing overheads such as salaries to employees across all levels, rent, electricity and equipment, is a problem for big and small hospitals alike.
"Preliminary discussions are going on among private healthcare providers and we are waiting to see if there is an economic stimulus. If not, we will have to resort to cutting salaries or laying off employees. Those earning below Rs 15000 will not see cuts but nurses earning below Rs 30,000 might see a 10-20 percent cut. Doctors eaning above Rs 50,000 can expect higher cuts. However, we have not decided on it. We will reinstate the original salaries once the economic situation becomes better," said Dr HM Prasanna, member of the committee and president elect of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Associations.
"The government's move to pay EPF contributions of both employers and employees is an eyewash as it came with a rider that it is applicable for establishments where 90 percent of the employees earn below Rs 15000. This does not make sense as the minimum wage itself is around Rs 13,000. The government should come out with a support structure as private hospitals are one of the largest employers. No hospital has surplus beyond a month," he said.
With a 90 percent drop in OPD consultations, consultant doctors who see patients at different hospitals are also feeling the pinch.
"We used to see 50 patients a day in OPD but now see only 5 to 10 patients a day. This has an effect on the fee for the services as the hospital takes 25-30 percent of the cut from a senior consultant doctor. A young doctor earning Rs 1 lakh per month will see a drastic reduction in salary to Rs 30,000 per month," said a specialist in pulmonary medicine who works in several top private hospitals in Bengaluru.
A private hospital in central Bengaluru has taken a decision to defer 50 percent of the salary for this month until further notice, owing to the global pandemic. The staff also got a circular seeking voluntary contributions from doctors.
Dr Rajashekar, medical director, Shekar Eye Hospital, and president of Karnataka Opthalmic Society, said,"There is discussion among private nursing homes to shut down for six months. There is a 90 percent drop in patient footfall in eye hospitals and we are finding it difficult to pay rent, electricity and employee salaries. Doctors contributed from their pockets for the salary of lower rung staff like technicians. Expenses have in fact risen by 20 percent because of investments in PPE kits and cleaninig the hospital more."
Dr Naresh Shetty, president, MS Ramaiah Memorial Hospital, said,"We cannot lay employees off as we need them as well. We will watch what the government does in the next 1-2 months but there may be pay cuts."
Dr Premanath, director of Ramakrishna Hospital said, "With both patients and doctors not turning up at the hospital owing to fear of COVID-19, we have closed down one of our hospitals 25 days ago. The other hospital is running with duty staff attending to emergencies and seeing only 2 to 4 patients a day. We will not lay off people now but there will be pay cuts as there is no cash flow."