Government turns to private hospitals to treat coronavirus patients

Health officials dress in protective gear at Kagadi Hospital. Government is considering allowing private hospitals to treat  Covid-19 patients. PHOTO/ FILE

As the number of coronavirus patients in the country surges, the Ministry of Health is assessing the capacity of private hospitals to admit and treat the infected persons in order to relieve public hospitals.

Previously, the ministry had cautioned private health facilities to focus only on case identification and referral, preferring to centralise all treatment in government hospitals.

However, Dr Denis Kimalyo, the executive director of Uganda National Association of Private Hospitals (UNAPH), told Daily Monitor recently that this approach was making it hard for Covid-19 patients to access services since private hospitals are the first point of care for most Ugandans. 

He said private facilities had not been well engaged in the response plan. He appealed to government to support them.

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of Health Services at the ministry, told Daily Monitor in an interview last Friday that some hospitals had  submitted requests to take in patients. 

Mr Mwebesa said the case management committee was assessing them and a report will be released tomorrow.

He said about six health facilities including Medipal International Hospital, Case Hospital, Nsambya Hospital and Kibuli Hospital expressed interest, but none had met the requirements by last Friday. 

“We haven’t accredited any yet and those doing it are doing it on their own unofficially, but we have sent teams to look at the hospitals. They must provide isolation services and bed capacity which is away from the regular patients. 

“There must be an isolation centre somewhere we don’t want you to infect other patients. You must also have oxygen capacity,” Dr Mwebesa said.
The health facilities are also expected to have a high dependency unit with patient monitors and an Intensive care facility with at least four beds. 

The facility should also have laboratory facilities and an X-ray to test the patients and monitor organ functioning and blood, which Dr Mwebesa said is part of the care for Covid patients.

The other requirements are trained staff, exclusively for treating Covid-19 patients, facilities at the hospital where they will stay and adequate protective gear.

“The point is that we need to get many more people to do treatment because now we are allowing more people to be treated at home. We don’t want a facility to admit asymptomatic cases, make money out of them and when they progress to severe, send them to Mulago hospital. That is why we are insisting you must have high dependency units, you must have ICU. If you are ready to take on these patients, you should take them all the way even when they get severe,” Dr Mwebesa said. 

When asked whether if the private hospitals are allowed to treat Covid cases government will meet the cost of treatment as it does in public hospitals, the Ministry of Health spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said the issue of cost is among other issues which are still being discussed by the ministry and no conclusion has been made yet. 

He said they don’t want a situation where private hospitals will charge more than the fair cost of Covid treatment.

By Sunday, confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 7,530 with 1,678 cases active and 73 deaths.

Dr Mwebesa cautioned the private hospitals against looking at the move as a money making venture. 

“We are also trying to look at the cost. Some were talking crazy costs as high as Shs5m per night in the ICU, and you are not going to be in ICU for three days…it takes like three weeks or one week if you are lucky. This is a liberal economy and you can’t fix prices, but some have suggested that we fix prices. We know what it takes but it is difficult to enforce,” he said. 


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