The hospital for everyone

An Indian businessman who recovered from Covid-19 has converted his office into an 85-bed facility to provide free treatment for the poor.

The coronavirus epidemic is still raging in the world's second-most populous nation, with the number of infections passing 1.5 million on Wednesday with almost 35,000 deaths. With public hospitals struggling to cope, Mr Kadar Shaikh spent 20 days in a private clinic last month in Surat, a city in Gujarat, and was horrified by the bill.

"The cost of treatment at a private hospital was huge. How could poor people afford such treatment?" the property developer said.

"So I decided to do something and contribute in the fight against the deadly virus."

Once back on his feet, Mr Shaikh, 59, secured approval from local authorities to convert his 2,800 square-metre office premises in Surat.

The government provides and pays for the staff, medical equipment and medicine, while Mr Shaikh bought the beds and bears the cost of linen and electricity.

"This hospital is for everyone, irrespective of caste, creed and religion," he said.

"I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth… I also faced financial problems and I worked hard.

"Now I am financially sound. So I thought of lending a helping hand to the needy during this global pandemic.

"My three sons and I have always helped poor people… Now I felt I should do something more. Hence the hospital."

The hospital has been named Hiba Hospital, after Mr Shaikh's granddaughter.

Mr Shaikh has also arranged separate space for doctors and nurses.

"A kitchen and dining area have also been made ready," he said.

"We are also planning to provide cooks and take care of the daily food needs of patients."

The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) health department authorities visited the hospital on July 21 and inspected the arrangements.

"We have seen the premises and found it appropriate. In the next few days, the hospital will start functioning with patients referred from other hospitals," said SMC Deputy Health Commissioner Dr Ashish Naik.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Tuesday that more than half the people living in Mumbai's sprawling slums are probably infected with the coronavirus, which suggests the metropolis could be heading towards herd immunity.

India has the world's third-highest caseload of the virus, behind the United States and Brazil, and health officials have been hoping to flatten the curve or reduce the incidence of infections in the big cities that are driving the growth.

About 57 per cent of slum-dwellers have tested positive for antibodies for the coronavirus, from a random sample size of 7,000 people, according to a survey jointly conducted by Mumbai's municipality, government think tank Niti Aayog and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

"Sero-conversion (the presence of antibodies in the blood) means you have protective antibodies.

"These are the people who are becoming a wall and protecting others against transmission," said Dr Kamakshi Bhate, professor emeritus of community medicine at Mumbai's King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Around 65 per cent of Mumbai's 12 million people live in the cramped, airless slums, making for easy transmission of the disease.

The survey found that only 16 per cent of those living outside the slums had been exposed to the virus, the low proportion probably the result of social distancing and lockdowns.

Mr Suresh Kakani, an officer at Mumbai's civic body, said the results of the serological survey showed that the city may be inching towards herd immunity.

"The number 57 is very good," he said.

"We are inching towards herd immunity, but we can't let it go. We can't predict the behaviour of this virus."

Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, is the worst-affected Indian state, accounting for almost 400,000 cases.

AFP, Reuters, Indo-Asian News Service

"This hospital is for everyone, irrespective of caste, creed and religion." - Mr Kadar Shaikh, an Indian businessman who converted his office premises in Surat to a hospital