A good number of private hospitals are now making a handsome profit from providing Covid-19 treatment that is expensive, turning around from pandemic-induced losses.
But, the hospitals with inadequate intensive care beds and oxygen supply continue to incur losses.
For instance, Samorita Hospital is witnessing excellent revenue growth since it began to treat Covid-19 patients, while the Dhaka Central International Medical College & Hospital is still struggling for not having facilities for such treatment.
On 24 May 2020, the health ministry directed all government and private hospitals having 50 beds or above to treat Covid-19 patients.
The health directorate through regular press releases provided information on patients admitted to Anwar Khan Modern Medical College Hospital, Asghar Ali Hospital, Square Hospital, Ibn Sina, United Hospital, Evercare Hospital, Impulse Hospital, AMZ Hospital and Bangladesh Specialised Hospital.
Besides, Labaid, Samorita, BRB, Green Life, Central and Popular hospitals provide Covid treatment. Of them, only Samorita Hospital is listed on the country's capital market.
Dr Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Private Clinic and Diagnostic Owners Association (BPCDOA), told The Business Standard that only a few private hospitals, which have intensive care units and oxygen supply, are rendering services to Covid-19 and doing good business.
But, it is not about business, rather it is about providing services to Covid-19 patients, he pointed out.
Most private hospitals across the country do not have enough facilities to provide proper treatment to Covid-19 patients. They are reeling from a thin presence of patients as most people are still reluctant to go to hospitals in fear of coronavirus infection, Dr Moniruzzaman also said.
"We have created a green zone for general patients and a red one for Covid-19 patients in the hospitals. But non-Covid patients are unwilling to abide by the zoning system," he added.
In the April-June quarter last year, when the country was under the 66-day shutdown to curb the pandemic, Samorita Hospital saw a 65% drop in revenue and incurred a loss of Tk1.93 crore. The situation was similar for most private hospitals.
In that quarter, the arrival of in-patients dropped to only 10-12 per day from over 50 in normal times.
Following the government decision to allow private hospitals for Covid-19 treatment, Samorita Hospital bounced back posting a 189% revenue growth in the July-September quarter last year compared to the previous quarter's earnings.
The hospital continued its quarter-on-quarter growth by 32% to Tk12.14 crore in the October-December quarter last year. In that quarter, its year-on-year profit growth was 458% to Tk1.9 crore.
Dr ABM Haroon, managing director of Samorita Hospital, said, "Our business has recovered on the back of providing treatment to Covid-19 patients. But now, their admission has decreased. The number of general in-patients increased, but not as many as in normal times. I think the situation will remain the same for the next few months."
LabAid Hospital has also started to bounce back from pandemic shocks, relying on Covid-19 patients.
Dr AM Shamim, managing director of Labaid Group, told TBS, "Our business suffered a big blow in the absence of patients at the beginning of the pandemic outbreak. We made an around 50% recovery when the number of Covid-19 patients increased in June-July. Now, the number of Covid patients has decreased but non-Covid heart and surgery patients have started coming to the hospital. Our business has so far made an 80% recovery."
Al Emran Chowdhury, director and chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Specialised Hospital Limited, said, "We are doing well by providing treatment to Covid-19 patients. Our revenue also witnessed a handsome growth during the pandemic period."
But the situation is different for those who could not provide treatment for Covid patients.
The Dhaka Central International Medical College & Hospital does not have facilities to treat Covid-19 patients. At the beginning of the pandemic hit, the number of patients admitted to the hospital situated on the capital's Ring Road dropped to 8 to 10 a day. To improve the situation, the hospital started to admit Covid suspects towards the end of last year, but not much has changed. More than two-thirds of the hospital's beds are still empty.
ATM Mujibur Rahman, manager (Admin), at the hospital, told The Business Standard, "Initially, we were not allowed to admit Covid-19 patients. After getting permission to admit such patients, if any patient was found, we would treat them. Now, we have arrangements for suspected Covid-19 patients. Recently, we have also started doing Covid-19 tests. But currently, the number of people coming for tests is very low and the number of positive patients getting admitted to hospitals is minimal too."
Badruddoja Ahmed Fuad, chief financial officer of the Dhaka central hospital, told TBS, "Our business has suffered a lot since the beginning of the pandemic. We have not yet been able to return to a satisfactory level, our bed occupancy rate is disappointing. People are still reluctant to come to hospitals."
An official at Insaf Barakah Kidney and General Hospital, another non-Covid hospital, said, "at the beginning of the pandemic, our hospital remained closed for 14 days after some doctors and nurses contracted Covid-19. Our business has suffered a lot as our hospital is a non-Covid one."
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has passed the 10th month of the Covid-19 outbreak with 5,34,770 confirmed cases and 8,111 deaths so far, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
And, the total number of registered private hospitals and clinics are 5,321. The number is above 15,000, including the unregistered ones, according to the BPCDOA.
The health directorate is currently giving information on Covid-19 patients receiving treatment in nine private hospitals in Dhaka and three in Chattogram.