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Private facilities can’t offer COVID-19 treatment

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Even with the push by sections to have private hospitals start offering COVID-19 related care coupled with the increasing number of patients testing positive for the virus being picked from private health facilities, the possibility of them being allowed to offer such care remains slim.

Faulting a press release by Lubaga hospital where they earlier announced that they have set up an isolation unit to offer free COVID-19 treatment as wrong, Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng clarified on Thursday that by creating many facilities, they risk not being able to control treatment activities.

The patient in Lubaga who tested positive for the virus has since been transferred to Mulago specialized National Referral Hospital and Aceng says the only private entities allowed to handle anything related to the viral respiratory disease are the three accredited laboratories of Lancet, MBN and Medipal International Hospital.

While private healthcare providers under their umbrella Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF) had earlier been benching to be involved in the pandemic, executive director Grace Kiwanuka told Uganda Radio Network – URN on Thursday that it’s highly unlikely that they will take part.

She said they had earlier started with the training of health workers in private facilities via zoom on how to handle cases in case they arise but only 600 health workers got the opportunity of the 3300 facilities around the country.

“In Kampala we have 1600 facilities and 98 percent are privately owned. KCCA has been trying to train private facilities but the resources available were limited,” she said handling COVID-19 would be very challenging for them.

“The nature of this condition being highly infectious makes it difficult to contain if they have many mixed care centres. People in ICU for a cardiovascular condition on a ward with COVID-19 people to give a crude example. So would that facility only handle COVID going forward? Having centres that solely focus on COVID also allows for efficient usage of the PPE that’s proving hard to get”.

Kiwanuka asks government to come up with training programmes that can benefit private providers since with the rise in community cases of COVID-19, a lot more people will be picked from private facilities since other respiratory infections that can present the same symptoms are high.

On his part, Dr Stephen Ayella Ataro, the Vice President of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) recommends that private healthcare facilities that have the capacity to handle COVID-19 should be assessed and allowed to since Uganda’s healthcare system is designed in a way that one can seek health services from anywhere from the government to private facilities.

To him, whether private facilities offer COVID-19 treatment or not, with the rise in cases picked from different parts of the country, all facilities should be guarded with the right Personal Protective Equipment if further infection is to be minimized.

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