MUMBAI: Huge resource disparities are emerging between cities in the fight against Covid. While the BMC has spent over Rs 900 crore in Mumbai, three large urban centres in the metropolitan region around it have together used up barely Rs 125 crore.
Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) and Panvel Municipal Corporation (PMC) spent Rs 45 crore, Rs 57 crore and Rs 25 crore, respectively, on facilities, paying medical staff and treating patients of the epidemic over the past six months. Their per capita expenditure of Rs 300-317 is less than half of Mumbai’s at Rs 634. Among other corporations in the region, Thane and Mira-Bhayander are yet to compile their Covid expenditure.
BMC has jurisdiction over the largest population, which it recently estimated at 14.2 million. A senior official attributed higher spending by BMC to the “surge” in Covid cases it experienced in the initial months following the lockdown. This forced the administration to scale up facilities quickly. In contrast, cases under other civic corporations, he said, “went up in a staggered manner.”
The amount spent on Covid treatment by NMMC and KDMC would be 2-3% of their annual budget. They have sought Rs 225 crore and Rs 214 crore, respectively, as additional aid from the state government.
NMMC has an estimated population of 15 lakh, which translates into per capita spend of approximately Rs 300. KDMC, with an estimated population of 18 lakh, has per capita spend of Rs 317. And Panvel, with a population of 8.4 lakh, has per capita spend of Rs 312.
Ravi Duggal, a public health expert with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said, “The amount spent by these corporations in terms of their population may be adequate. But the spending must reflect in terms of the situation on the ground. Many of these corporations in MMR do not have adequate healthcare facilities and their health budgets are very low. Their capacity to respond to the pandemic are hampered. Mira-Bhayander Corporation has only two small hospitals of its own.”
This resource crunch may partly explain why Mumbai has now been overtaken by Thane district in active cases under management. Thane has over 30,000 active cases as against the 24,000-odd in the metropolis.
NMMC commissioner Abhijit Bangar said his administration has sought to bridge the infra gap by spending on quarantine facilities and jumbo Covid care centres, procuring medicines and food for patients, medical gear and hiring more staff. Due to lack of facilities to cater to the growing number of serious patients, NMMC had to tie up with private hospitals like DY Patil and part finance equipment for ICU beds.
KDMC spent around Rs 1 crore only on ambulance services following complaints. It has hired 100 ambulances along with drivers. Panvel corporation had to shell out large sums to private hospitals to treat patients as it lacked enough health facilities of its own.
(With Pradeep Gupta)



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