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Wednesday May 13 2020
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Five private Karachi hospitals agree to treat needy coronavirus patients

Sindh health minister says provincial govt to pay for treatment of patients whose financial condition does not allow them to afford treatment at any private health facility. Photo: File

Five leading private hospitals in Karachi have agreed to treat deserving coronavirus patients at their respective high dependency units (HDUs) and intensive care units (ICUs) at the Sindh government’s expenses. The Sindh government will pay money to the private hospitals in advance for the treatment of coronavirus patients, reported The News.

“The Sindh health department and five leading private hospitals in Karachi have finally reached an agreement, according to which these private health facilities will treat needy and deserving COVID-19 patients at the government’s expense. A summary in this regard has been moved to the Sindh chief minister for approval,” Health Minister Sindh Dr Azra Pechuho told The News on Tuesday.

The private hospitals include Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) Karachi, Dr Ziauddin Hospitals, South City Hospital, Patel Hospital and Altamash General Hospital, the authorities said, adding that these hospitals have established separate COVID-19 wards with HDUs, ICUs and ventilators and all these health facilities have their own laboratories for the testing and diagnosis of the virus.

Since the first coronavirus case was reported in Sindh on February 26, 2020, the provincial health department had been trying to persuade private health facilities to treat needy coronavirus patients but the private hospitals were unwilling to share the provincial government’s burden without an agreement and payment of expenditures in advance, arguing that it was extremely difficult to get the bills cleared from the health department.

During a meeting with the health minister last week, four leading private hospitals had agreed to offer a package to the government for the treatment of deserving COVID-19 patients, according to which specific daily amounts would be charged for a patient in the COVID-19 ward, HDU and ICU, while the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) refused to offer any package deal to the authorities, saying that it would charge the government’s patients like other private patients.

Confirming that the provincial health department had agreed to pay the expenses to the private hospitals for the treatment of moderate to serious COVID-19 patients, Dr Pechuho said a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been prepared, which would be signed between the private hospitals and the health department this week as soon as Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah signed the summary in this regard.

“We will not bear the cost for the treatment of private patients and those can afford. We will only pay for the treatment of those patients whose financial condition is so weak that they cannot afford treatment at any private health facility,” she said, adding that due to easing off the lockdown, the number of COVID-19 patients was expected to rise sharply and more HDU/ICU beds would be required to treat the growing number of patients.

The health minister said not only beds at the public and private hospitals were being occupied by the serious COVID-19 patients but they also feared a shortage of specialised healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, who were contracting the novel coronavirus at an alarming pace while treating the patients.

“These five hospitals have assured us of providing 195 beds for COVID-19 patients. They have also assured us that they have established separate coronavirus wards where other common patients would not be treated. Once this arrangement works smoothly, we would be adding more hospitals to this network,” Dr Pechuho maintained.

To a query, she clarified that in order to receive treatment at the private facilities at the government’s expense, family members of patients would have to submit their financial statements and an undertaking that they were unable to afford the treatment at private hospitals. “In case it proves wrong, they would have to pay the amount incurred on treatment,” she said.

The provincial health minister explained that needy COVID-19 patients would be referred to the five private facilities once all the beds at the public and charity hospitals were filled.

At present, only five health facilities — Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Ojha Campus of the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and Indus Hospital Karachi — are offering treatment to the COVID-19 patients free of charge.

Originally published in The News