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POST TIME: 4 April, 2020 00:00 00 AM
Private health sector can be engaged conditionally
ON TESTING OR TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS, THERE IS INDEED ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Private health sector can be engaged conditionally

The government should positively welcome the private health providers’ willingness to test and treat COVID-19 patients. We are now in the first week of April. According to virologists, this week and the week that will follow, Bangladesh will pass the peak time of the spread of the corononavirus. In case of a large-scale outbreak, the government alone may not be able to handle the situation.

So far the overall assessment goes the virus has spared us up until now, whatever may be the reason behind this: a prevailing high temperature that can reduce the virus’s infectivity or genetic mutation the virus has undergone while coming to Bangladesh via different countries including Italy from its original source in Wuhan and in the process, the virus becoming weak.

There is still an opinion among the virologists that mankind will have to live with this coronavirus permanently, with the virus transforming into a flu like one having a weakened genetic code. All these are scientific assumptions, not the established truths. Therefore the preparations must be taken according to a given situation and research findings.  

In Bangladesh, while the overall government response to the outbreak is satisfactory, on testing or treating COVID-19 patients, there is indeed room for improvement. Of late, the prime minister ordered the IEDCR to increase the number of tests meaningfully so that a near-accurate picture, if not an accurate one, is gained about how far the virus has spread into the community at large. Bangladesh needs badly to expand and increase testing of the coronavirus now.

Reportedly, more than a dozen private diagnostic and hospital facilities in Bangladesh have the capacity to test suspected coronavirus patients with the help of PCR machines with Biosafety Level 2 as required by the WHO. If these private facilities are allowed to test and give patient-specific treatment, they can add positively to the government’s efforts to contain the virus outbreak.

But, before doing that, public health authorities are strongly advised to discuss on what financial terms the private health providers want to render their service: free of cost or in exchange of nominal or affordable fees. In case of the latter, the government needs to fix charges of services including testing and treating COVID-19 patients so that in this period of panic among people, private health providers do not get an opportunity to exploit the people.

This is indeed a time for showing magnanimity to people.