Rs 60-crore Tata Covid Hospital in Kasaragod to be dismantled, govt sanctions Rs 23.75 crore for new block

TATA Covid hospital
TATA Covid hospital

Kasaragod: The government of Kerala has decided to dismantle the Covid hospital built by Tata Group at a cost of Rs 60 crore, two-and-a-half years after it was inaugurated at Thekkil village in Kasaragod.

The business conglomerate built the hospital using 128 pre-fabricated shipping containers in five months during the Covid pandemic and claimed they will have a life of 25 to 30 years if properly maintained.

"The shipping containers are not suitable for the climate of Kasaragod," said Udma MLA and CPM leader C H Kunhambu. "They will be replaced with new (RCC) buildings," he said.

In the first phase, the state government has sanctioned Rs 23.75 crore to build a new ' 50-bed critical care unit' at Tata hospital, the MLA announced on Facebook.

The government's decision to invest in civil infrastructure goes against the health infrastructure needs and demands of doctors and people's representatives of Kasaragod.

"We don't need another hospital building. We need doctors in existing hospitals in Kasaragod," an office-bearer of the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association had told Onmanorama.

If the government had money to build another hospital, it should invest it in completing the medical college hospital block at Ukkinadka in Badiadka grama panchayat, Kasaragod MLA N A Nellikkunnu had said when health minister Veena George said in January that the government was considering dismantling the containers and building a new block.

Kunhambu said the decision to "upgrade" the covid hospital to a 'critical care centre' was taken based on the demand made by members of the Assembly.

TATA Covid hospital
TATA Covid hospital while under construction. File Photo: Manorama

Tata Hospital, a colossal waste of resources

On March 28, 2020 -- when India was in the throes of Covid, Tata Group's Ratan Tata tweeted pledging Rs 500 crore to buy personal protective equipment, respiratory systems, testing kids, setting up modular treatment facilities for infected patients, and knowledge management and training of health workers and the public.

Soon after on April 9, the state government announced that the Tata Group was building a covid hospital in Kasaragod.

The District Administration coaxed the Malabar Islamic Complex, an educational institute of Sunni scholars' organisation Samastha Kerala Jamiyy-athul Ulama to part with 5.5 acres for the project.

The Tatas brought in 128 customised shipping containers, each measuring 40x10x10 ft, from Faridabad, Howrah, Mangaluru, Hyderabad, and Ahmedabad and spread out the hospital in five months.

Inaugurating the hospital on September 9, 2020, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Covid Hospital would be an asset to Kerala's healthcare sector and to Kasaragod, where there is no tertiary healthcare facility, and lauded it as a good example of private participation for the public good.

But stormwater started seeping into the containers through the windows and roof in the initial months.

The Tata Group sent staff to rectify it. But the problems persisted.

The government then created 188 posts for the hospital and appointed a fraction of them.

The hospital treated 4,987 covid patients. Once the Covid threat subsided, the hospital and its pieces of equipment fell into disuse.

In his report submitted to the Supreme Court, the District Legal Service Authority secretary (sub-judge) B Karunakaran said the hospital had a "lot of issues in the structure such as leaking rooms, the durability of floor built using plywood, and high risk of fire. The cabin structure does not have a concrete basement either."

With no Covid patients, the machines, including the ventilators, remain idle. "Running the hospital in its present condition will be inconvenient and expensive," the report said.

Doctors pointed out the exorbitant cost of each container. At Rs 60 crore, each container would cost around Rs 46 lakh to Rs 47 lakh. And only three to five patients can be accommodated in a structure worth Rs 50 lakh, said a doctor.

Health officials also said they needed more staff to monitor the patients because of the sprawling nature of the hospital.

The government could have asked the Tata Group to invest Rs 60 crore in the medical college gasping without funds, said a doctor. "But we cannot look a gift horse in the mouth," he said.

Apart from the Rs 60 crore, the district administration had invested Rs 12 crore to build a road to connect the hospital and the highway, and get power and water supply.

Kanhangad MLA E Chandrasekharan had asked the government to turn the hospital into a specialty palliative care centre. It was ignored.

Kunhambu said the critical care unit would function as an annex of the District Hospital in Kanhangad.

The staff had been rehabilitated in other hospitals. They would be brought back to Tata Hospital once the critical care unit is ready, Kunhambu said. But it won't be Tata Hospital then.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.