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Private providers want to be intergrated in COVID-19 care

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private healthcare providers are calling for the establishment of a health sector commission to coordinate different entities in times of emergencies like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Ian Clarke, the chairman of the Uganda Healthcare Federation; an organization that brings together private health facilities and practitioners said on Saturday that the fact that all the COVID-19 fatalities that have so far been registered came from private facilities shows just how important it is to incorporate them into care.

There were 292 people isolated at different treatment centres across the country for care as of last evening. But the number is expected to increase with preliminary findings of an on-going rapid assessment survey showing a tenfold increase of positivity rate from the lows of 0.016 percent in May when the first assessment was done to 0.13 percent currently.

At this rate, experts predict public health care centres will be overwhelmed by numbers with the anticipated increase in cases, unfortunately raising in a largely unprepared private health centres that would come in to fill the gaps. Dr Richard Idro the President of the Uganda Medical Association says this is a good time for strengthening public-private collaborations in healthcare.

In response, Dr Charles Olaro, the Director of Clinical Services at the Ministry of Health said they started engaging private health practitioners by engaging them in virtual training to first give them the basics as they strengthen public health facilities to be able to handle more cases of COVID-19 when they arise.

Currently, he said, the government is procuring a new oxygen plant that can produce a million litres of oxygen per hour which will be fitted at Mulago Hospital. Other two plants will be installed at Entebbe and Jinja hospitals. Already there are 135 functional Intensive Care Unit beds across the country whereby 66 have been dedicated to COVID-19.

But according to Idro, while equipment is key, what is urgently needed is coordination between healthcare providers. For him, even as there is a lot of discussion on ICU’s as the most important need, cheaper high dependence units can be sufficient.

Meanwhile, Dr Ian Clarke said he was surprised when he heard Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng complaining about the facilities accredited to conduct COVID-19 tests charging 300,000 Shillings for each test. For him, the PCR test that they were accredited to use is not cheap and any rate below that fee would be impossible to meet their operational costs.

Aceng however told journalists early this week that they are set to re-engage the three accredited labs; MBN, Lancet and Medipal Hospital Laboratory on pricing which she described as exorbitant. Lancet laboratories who are already conducting tests now charge 334,900 Shillings per test.

With 49 new cases confirmed from tests done on Friday which included a 50-year-old male resident of Kiryandongo who succumbed, the cumulative total number of people who have had COVID-19 in Uganda stands at 1,434.

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