KOCHI: The state’s tag as an affordable healthcare destination is set to become history with private sector hospitals, which handle 70 per cent of the medical needs of the state, gearing up to hike the rate for various services, starting with the outpatient segment.
Top industry officers told ‘Express’ the hospital charges will go up by 15-20 per cent following the government announcement to increase the salary of nurses in various slabs. “It takes at least 8-9 years for a hospital to become viable. The pay scale of Rs 17,000-20,000 may be workable for a hospital in Delhi, which charges Rs 1,000 from an out-patient.
That mathematics won’t work here in Kerala,” said Dr Harish Pillai, president of Association of Healthcare Providers of India - Kerala chapter. He said the wage bill will increase by 50 per cent, which will have a corresponding increase in healthcare at a minimum of 15 per cent across the board. There are around 1,70,000 nurses in the private sector. “We will abide by the government decision. But we will be forced to hike the rates to meet the increased financial burden,” said Dr Harish Pillai, who is also the CEO of Aster MedCity.
“Kerala has the highest life expectancy (75 years) in the country. We are the diabetic capital of the country, number two in obesity and a state with the largest number of young people dying due to heart diseases,” he said, indicating a massive spike in healthcare costs of Malayalees in the new scenario.
Right now, Kerala’s healthcare costs are cheaper by 20 per cent vis-a-vis Tamil Nadu. “The gap will go, after the hike,” he says. At a meeting of statekholders held in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, Health Minister K K Shylaja announced the government decision to fix the basic wage at Rs 17,200, which she said is a 50 per cent increase over the existing salary of Rs 8,775 per month.
Dr P K Mohamed Rasheed, president of Kerala Private Hospitals Association (KPHA), which has about 740 hospitals in the state under its umbrella, says the ball is in the government’s court. “At the meeting, the government announced a big jump in the salary structure of nurses, which will put a huge burden on us. Despite this, the nurses have gone ahead with the strike. It’s now up to the government to take the next step,” says Rasheed.
He says hospitals under KPHA will have no option but to increase the charges to absorb the additional burden in the wake of the government decision to hike the nurses’ wages. “What we suggested was a step by step increase, but the government went ahead and announced a big hike. Though this is a big cost burden, we are ready to implement the new wage structure,” Rasheed said. However, he said small hospitals will not be able to bear this higher salary structure. Fr. Thomas Vaikathuparambil of Catholic Healthcare Association of India, which has 320 hospitals under it, said its hospitals will try to absorb the additional salary burden by reducing the overhead expenses.