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3 April, 2020 00:00 00 AM
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Pvt healthcare providers want to join fight against COVID-19

RAFIQUL ISLAM AZAD, Dhaka
Pvt healthcare providers want 
to join fight against COVID-19

With many countries witnessing their testing and medical facilities overwhelmed due to the spread of novel coronavirus, the private healthcare providers in Bangladesh are now urging the government to involve them in testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients to help country better prepare in the event of a large-scale outbreak.

Owners of private hospitals and diagnostic centres feel that it is necessary to allow them to carry out diagnostic tests and treatment to efficiently check the ongoing pandemic. The state-run IEDCR has been the lone institution for testing novel coronavirus infections until the government recently introduced the test at a dozen other state-run facilities across the country. Only three government hospitals – Kuwait Moitree Friendship Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital and Dhaka Medical College Hospital are now authorised to treat COVID-19 patients.

Talking to The Independent, Managing Director of LabAid Hospital AM Shamim said around 15 private diagnostic and hospital facilities including LabAid, Popular, Ibn Sina, Square and United have the capacity to test suspected coronavirus patients with the help of PCR machines. They all have Biosafety Level 2 compliant facilities as required by the WHO, he added.

He also said while IEDCR tested around 1,500 samples in a month, private hospitals can perform the same number of tests in a single day. "With our capacity, we can provide the reports in a single day too, if required," he said.

Shamim said they could procure test kits from the government and carry out the tests within a few hours if they get the permission from the authorities concerned.

“We contacted the government for permission a week ago, but both the health ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)

said they are still now allowing COVID-19 tests in the private sector,” AM Shamim said.

However, Health and Family Planning Minister Zahid Maleque dismissed the claim that the government was unwilling. If private hospitals and clinics have the capacity to test for the coronavirus, they can do it, the minister said.

“We have repeatedly asked them to take different steps like keeping

isolation beds. But we receive allegations that many of them have either closed their hospitals or don’t care for coronavirus patients,” he added.

According to the WHO guideline, any non-propagative diagnostic laboratory work (for example, sequencing, nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT]) should be conducted at a facility using procedures equivalent to Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2). The WHO guideline also says when handling and processing specimens, including blood for serological testing, laboratory practices and procedures that are basic to good microbiological practices and procedures (GMPP) should be followed.

Owners of private diagnostic facilities said around 15 companies in the country operate Biosafety Level 2 labs and also strictly maintain GMPP.

Prof Maniruzzaman Bhuiyan, president of Bangladesh Private Clinic and Diagnostic Owner’s Association (BPCDOA), said private hospitals have arranged isolation beds in accordance with the WHO guidelines.

“We are ready to work together with the government to tackle the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

“We have urged the private hospitals to open isolation unit. Already, some hospitals have opened such and collected Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for treatment,” Prof Maniruzzaman said.

“The private sector played an important role in the treatment of dengue fever last year,” he added.

The BPCDOA president emphasised the need to arrange a sufficient quantity of ventilators for coronavirus patients.  Hospital owners suggested that the government can supply test kits, personal protective equipment (PPEs), and ventilators to the private healthcare sector to avoid substandard materials.

There are about 5,055 registered private hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centres in the country.

Private healthcare providers said the government should involve the private sector to fight the coronavirus pandemic holistically because they account for the majority of the healthcare system in Bangladesh.

The country has a total of 143,400 hospital beds and the private sector accounts for 63 per cent of the total, according to DGHS. Of the ICU beds in the country, the majority are also in the private sector.

If the virus spreads to the wider population, it will be necessary to dedicate some ICUs of private hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients, said owners.

Prof Maniruzzaman Bhuiyan said private hospitals have one lakh beds and about 70 per cent of them are now vacant due to lack of patients in the current situation.

He also urged the government to open a control room to monitor all coronavirus patients who will be treated at private hospitals.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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