Port trusts-run hospitals gear up to treat coronavirus patients

Hospitals run by the 11 port trusts owned by the Central government, some located in top cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, are geared up to treat coronavirus patients.

All the 11 port trusts have hospitals attached to them — in Mumbai, Kandla, Paradip, Chennai, Kochi, Mangaluru, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata, Goa and Thoothukudi — primarily to cater to their employees and pensioners.

“The port trust hospitals are fully geared,” said an official with one of the port trusts located on the western coast. This will add an extra layer of much needed capacity as the government looks at ways to augment the quarantine and treatment facilities being created across the country if the pandemic worsens.

“We have quarantine wards, isolation wards, doctors, trained medical staff and equipment. These will be open for port trust personnel primarily, and for outsiders, too. Ultimately, these are national assets,” the official said.

Privatisation plan

The Shipping Ministry has flagged off the process of privatising some of these hospitals through the public-private-partnership (PPP) route for their upgradation and expansion

In February, Maharashtra-based DY Patil Group won a contract to take over, upgrade and expand the hospital owned by Mumbai Port Trust in PPP mode.

This marked the first instance of privatisation of a hospital run by one of the 11 state-owned port trusts. The plan involves converting the 241-bed hospital into a 600-bed super specialty hospital to provide improved healthcare facilities to about 45,000 port employees (including pensioners) and their dependants, and the 1.3-crore population in the catchment area, on a PPP basis with an investment of about 700 crore.

The PPP operator also has the option of setting up a medical college as part of the project, spread over 10 acres.

A government-appointed panel headed by Vedprakash Mishra, Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Medical Council of India, in a report submitted in 2017, had recommended that hospitals run by port trusts be upgraded to super specialty hospitals and also be utilised to set up medical colleges. The plan was opposed by the port workers’ unions.