One casualty of Covid across private hospitals in Calcutta is the corporate annual health check-up.
Most big hospitals did not have any person coming for the routine health check-up for the past one-and-a-half years, since the Covid outbreak. Others said they did not have any till last month but it has started picking up slowly since.
Hospitals said many companies had kept tie-ups pending as they were negotiating with the healthcare units over rates.
Officials of some of the companies cited two reasons for keeping tie-ups and health check-ups on hold. Most employees are not ready to go to hospitals or diagnostic centres amid the pandemic and wait for hours to get blood and other tests done.
Companies are also reluctant to send their staff for the check-up and many are waiting for their employees to get both doses of a Covid vaccine.
Financial difficulties caused by the pandemic have forced some of the employers to keep the annual check-up on hold to cut costs.
The annual check-up packages usually range between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 per person.
The check-ups at almost all private hospitals have stopped since the outbreak.
At the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, around 40 people would turn up every day for the annual check-up before the pandemic. They would include beneficiaries of corporate health check-up packages as well as those who would pay from their pockets.
“However, for the last one-and-a-half years, the health check-up programme has completely stopped. No one is coming for the tests,” said R. Venkatesh, regional director, east, Narayana Health, which runs the RN Tagore hospital.
The authorities of the Mukundapur hospital are running a Covid vaccination clinic in the space that was once reserved for annual check-ups.
Forty-two of the 105 corporate clients of the RN Tagore hospital have not renewed their contracts, Venkatesh said.
Tie-ups allow corporate bodies to enjoy special rates for beds and treatment at the hospitals. Rates usually increase by 10 per cent after every revision. Many of the companies are asking the hospitals to continue with the old rates or agree on a lower rate of increase.
Peerless Hospital would have 30 people turning up daily on an average for the check-up before the pandemic. Now the number is zero.
“We have kept the facility closed because there are no takers. Now that Covid restrictions have been eased, we are expecting some to turn up,” said Sudipta Mitra, the chief executive of Peerless Hospital.
He said about 10 companies had not got the rates revised for treatments of their employees.
Mitra said that apart from employees of various companies, many Bangladeshis would queue up for the health check-up. “Relatives accompanying a patient would undergo check-ups. Bangladeshi nationals are not coming now because of the travel ban,” said Mitra.
An official of a technology company said employees used to be sent for check-ups before they flew abroad on assignments. “Now there is no foreign travel. So those check-ups are not required,” said the official.
“Pre-joining health check-ups, too, are not taking place as there is a freeze on recruitment.”
A senior HR official at a private company said: “None of our employees are ready to go to a healthcare unit and wait for three to four hours to get tested amid the Covid pandemic. We cannot force them to go for the tests in this situation. Our primary target is to get all our employees fully vaccinated. Also, we are waiting for the threat of Covid to finally go away.”
The official said for the handful of people the company has recruited, the system of collecting samples from home has been introduced. “We have omitted X-ray, USG and ECG, because for those diagnostic procedures one has to go to the healthcare unit,” said the official.
Some of the hospitals are trying to adapt to the changing pattern.
Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals’ corporate health check-up programme was affected during the pandemic. “The number has dipped sharply. But now it is slowly picking up,” said Rana Dasgupta, the CEO of Apollo Gleneagles.
The hospital has a Pro Health check up programme that is based on artificial intelligence.
The programme for minimum one year includes wellness activities like Yoga and a health mentor who would provide as consultant and provide support through the year to the individual. The hospital has now introduced post Covid check up as part of this AI based health check up programme.
“We are having good response from corporates,” said an official of the hospital.
The hospital has also started collecting blood samples from home for those who want to conduct health check-up.
“They are asked to come to the hospital for tests like X-Ray, USG, CT-scan and ECG. So, the waiting time is minimised,” said the official.