The second wave of Covid-19 is claiming more lives, and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has urged the private sector for support in this emergency. Not only are government and private hospitals running out of beds, oxygen and medical personnel, they are turning critically ill patients away. In this scenario, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) issued a circular stating that if a company sets up temporary Covid-19 hospitals and facilities, it is eligible to be considered as a CSR activity.
Consider this a clarification of last year’s announcement. The MCA had issued a circular in 2020 during the first wave about corporate social responsibility activity related to the pandemic. Funds spent on Covid-19 relief measures were eligible for CSR. In January 2021, the MCA declared that pandemic-related awareness campaigns and programmes to promote vaccination are also valid CSR activities.
The burden on the crumbling public healthcare system has led to this move. With severe staff shortages and a rising number of patients, both government and private hospitals are unable to provide patients with beds or the required emergency medical attention. For example, more than 700 doctors, nurses and paramedic staff have been infected in Patna, which is the capital of Bihar, another city experiencing a surge. A fire broke out this morning at a private hospital in Vasai (near Mumbai), which was treating Covid patients. Worse, it was in the ICU, killing at least 13 patients and injuring many more.
Meanwhile, Corporate Affairs Secretary Rajesh Verma has written to the head honchos of India’s top 1,000 companies to think about converting their empty offices into Covid care facilities. Since offices are closed or operating with minimal staff due to the surge, many complexes are lying vacant at the moment. Allowing their premises for the treatment of critically ill coronavirus patients will provide immediate relief to citizens.
In an effort to help the government of Karnataka plug this gap, Bosch Limited has converted its sports complex located at Adugodi campus into a Covid Care Centre and handed over it to BBMP for the cause. In line with Bosch’s CSR commitment, Adugodi COVID Care Centre (CCC) houses over 70 beds and qualified staff to treat and take care of the patients. The centre offers round-the-clock availability of medical care, meals, beds, and internet facility. The facility is now officially open to both the general population, and immediate family members and/or direct dependents of Bosch India employees.
Last year, Wipro Limited repurposed one of its information technology campuses in Hinjewadi, Pune to a 450-bed intermediary care COVID-19 hospital in four weeks and handed it over to the state government on May 30. The hospital is an independent, isolated COVID-19 dedicated complex that also includes 24 well-appointed rooms to accommodate doctors and medical staff.
Reliance India Limited and Mercedes-Benz had announced in 2020 that they would be setting up temporary Covid-19 hospitals and facilities. With the MCA’s latest announcement, the government expects more private companies to do the same.