The hospital, mainly known for its legal battle with the BMC and a multi-crore insolvency plea, may have become the city’s unlikely saviour in the pandemic by handling a fifth of its Covid admissions. Last week, SevenHills completed admitting over 21,000 patients — the highest by any single Covid facility in Mumbai. “We knew this was the only facility that could be readied in the minimum possible time. That decision has paid off,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani.
A day after the state reported its first two Covid cases on March 9, former civic chief Praveen Pardeshi toured the hospital and gave orders to bring it to life. Though always touted as a 1,500-bed hospital, 306 beds were ever set up, of which only 55 were running since the hospital’s insolvency plea in 2018. Pardeshi’s brief was not just to activate 306 beds but to create 1,200 additional ones speedily.
Mission ‘renew SevenHills’ started the very day Mumbai reported its first two Covid cases (March 11), with basics like clearing debris from partially-constructed floors. Officer-on-special-duty Dr Maharudra Kumbhar recalled at least 350 trucks of debris leaving the hospital campus that day. Labourers were also greeted with some expected sights — over 50 snake carcasses were found. There was no time to halt as in the next 48 hours, the ward on the eighth floor was to be thrown open as a quarantine facility. Lights, fan, kitchen, canteen services to diagnostics and bio-medical waste disposal, everything had to be made functional.
As the first international traveller walked into the quarantine facility on March 14, news spread and hundreds of labourers fled. Work resumed after much cajoling but manpower remained one of the biggest challenges till June, said dean Dr Balkrishna Adsul. Private hospitals like HN Reliance joined in to manage wards and ICUs while Aditya Birla Foundation, Jupiter Hospital chipped in with repairing beds and providing other equipment.
Kumbhar said the hospital had its edgiest day on June 16 when its oxygen capacity had to be augmented by adding a 13 kilolitre tank, but that required the existing tank to be shut for four hours. “We had 350 patients on oxygen support, but all went well,” said Kumbhar.
SevenHills also saw one of the highest Covid deaths among hospitals. Of the nearly 3,000 ICU admissions, 44% succumbed. ICU in-charge Dr Rahul Sawalia said they didn’t refuse any critical patients, including from MMR, who came with multiple comorbidities.
A chunk of the BMC’s Covid expense, nearly Rs 200 crore, has gone into breathing life into SevenHills. Kakani said that while jumbo field hospitals may be dismantled eventually, SevenHills will continue to be there for Covid care.