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April 9, 2020

Health minister to persuade leading private hospitals’ owners to help govt deal with coronavirus

Karachi

April 9, 2020

After failing to convince private hospitals to allocate 20 per cent of their beds for coronavirus patients, the Sindh government on Wednesday constituted a ‘Private Hospitals Core Committee” on COVID-19 with Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho as its chairperson to persuade the private health sector to support the government in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and share the burden of patients with the public health facilities.

To be headed by Dr Pechuho, the committee comprises Dr Salman Faridi, medical director of Liaquat National Hospital Karachi, Dr Abdul Bari, chief executive officer of the Indus Hospital Karachi, Dr Zerkais Anklesaria from Anklesaria Hospital, Dr Asim Hussain, chairman of Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Dr Sadia Rizvi from the South City Hospital, and Dr Aijaz Khanzada, chief technical adviser to the Sindh health secretary.

“A meeting of the newly constituted Private Hospitals Core Committee has been scheduled on Thursday morning at the Sindh health department with provincial health minister Dr Pechuho in the chair to persuade the private hospitals to come forward and help the health department and the provincial government in dealing with coronavirus outbreak,” an official of the health department told The News.

The health department official said the committee was constituted after the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association had turned down the government’s request for allocating 20 per cent of beds for coronavirus patients at leading private hospitals in Karachi, asking the government to reserve some public tertiary-care hospitals completely as isolation and treatment centres for such patients instead of seeking the private sector’s help.

According to a notification issued by the health department, the core committee’s terms of references include the formulation of strategy to increase the capacity of private hospitals all over the province and to arrange training for the human resource of the private hospitals for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and to develop an advisory for the private health sector for dealing with coronavirus outbreak.

The health department official maintained that the government was compelled to constitute the committee of the heads of leading private sector hospitals after they had complained of unavailability of authentic testing kits for diagnosing coronavirus, an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), an inadequate number of ventilators and the absence of experimental drugs, as well as absence of trained human resource to admit and treat coronavirus patients at their health facilities.

The official said that during the meeting with Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah the other day, the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association had presented “several excuses” and made various suggestions, including establishing critical care units at its field isolation centre at the Expo Center Karachi, for which they were ready to provide ventilators as well as doctors and paramedics to the health department.

He maintained that private hospital owners had also identified several public hospitals and health facilities of the health department, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and Sindh Labour Department, which could be upgraded and utilised for isolating and treating coronavirus patients. He added that the health department was willing to seek the private sector’s help and assistance in enhancing its capacity to deal with the outbreak.

On the other hand, the Sindh government appears to have sidelined the Sindh Healthcare Commission (SHCC) while dealing with private hospitals in Karachi as neither its chairperson nor the cheif executive officer (CEO) has been included in the core committee to formulate strategy with respect to coronavirus in the province.

Health department officials said the Sindh Healthcare Commission was used to persuade the owners and heads of private hospitals and health facilities to come forward and support the provincial government in dealing with the health emergency, but on the request of some private hospitals, it was decided that no representation would be given to the healthcare commission in the core committee.

“Actually some private hospital owners were against the representation of the Sindh healthcare commission in the core committee and had reservations about the role and usage of the SHCC against private health facilities. On their recommendation, nobody from the healthcare commission was given representation on the core committee,” the health department official added.