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Most private hospitals have managed to retain their medical staff. Picture for illustrative purpose. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: At a time when hospitals around the world have come under financial pressure in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, private health-care facilities in Dubai seem to be showing the way.

There are 3,393 health-care facilities in all in the emirate, including 43 hospitals and 41 day-care centres for ambulatory services. As these facilities learn to deal with what is clearly an unprecedented situation, industry sources said a series of steps taken by the authorities have greatly helped in softening the impact of the global crisis.

A number of steps have been adopted by private hospitals to deal with the current situation. Picture for illustrative purpose. Image Credit: Supplied

Unified tariff

The unified tariff that hospitals are required to follow for insured and non-insured patients in the treatment of COVID-19 is one example.

Sources said as per the classification, patients are categorised into asymptomatic, mild, moderate, severe and critical cases. The average rate per day for treatment of patients is approximately around Dh600 for asymptomatic patients, Dh900 for mild patients, Dh 3,000 for moderate patients, Dh5,000 for severe patients and Dh9,000 for critical patients on ventilator support.

“With most hospitals dedicating the majority of their beds to COVID-19 patients, the flow of funds has eased initial financial losses,” said one private hospital source.

Hiring hotel rooms

The fixed-tariff payment for COVID-19 patients has not only helped hospitals meet their revenue needs, but also enabled them to hire out hotels for patients who are asymptomatic and also for those with mild symptoms. With assured tariffs, hospitals have been able to get these hired for as low as Dh100-300 per day, leaving beds available for the more serious patients. Hotels have also benefitted because of 100 per cent occupancy. It has been a win-win for both sectors.

Boost for telemedicine

With a drop in the total footfall of patients, the boost given to telemedicine has also proved helpful.

“Telemedicine consultation has been a stable source of revenue and most hospitals have tried to retain their doctors with some pay cuts as patients have begun warming up to online consultations,” said a private hospital source.

Operational costs

Even during normal times, nearly 30-60 per cent of a hospital’s operational cost is consumed in meeting monthly salary payouts, a senior corporate manager of a hospital explained.

He said: “This includes the salary of doctors, clinical and ICU nurses, ward nurses, diagnostic technicians, housekeepers and janitors. Next is the cost of equipment and maintenance of operation theatres, surgical units, ICUS, HDUs etc.”

The cost of utilities, consumables, housekeeping and nursing per room is always high. Even when the hospital rooms are not fully occupied, the hospital has to maintain an optimum level of staffing – ward boys, housekeepers, janitors, apart from the large contingent of nurses on duty. And these expenses hold at all times, irrespective of whether there is a pandemic or not.

Of course, there have been some extra heads of expenditure during the coronavirus outbreak, with more money being spent on hygiene, sanitisation and personal protective equipment.

Medical staff retention

Another major step in dealing with the situation at hand has been the implementation of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation’s directives on workforce stabilisation in the wake of COVID-19. Accordingly, affected employers, in relation to expat employees, have been allowed to take certain measures progressively to stabilise their workforces. Most hospitals have refrained from sacking medically qualified employees and have retained their nursing staff, diagnostic technicians and other allied staff members, sources said.

Human resources professionals in the private health-care sector said that job losses, if at all, have been mostly in sales, marketing, promotions and other non-essential segments.