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COVID-19 TREATMENT

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GOVERNMENT must take punitive action against private health institutions that are frustrating its drive to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is clear from Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya’s statement yesterday that private hospitals are not helping the government in tack-ling the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Dr Chilufya, some private health facilities have been found keeping in admission suspected Covid-19 patients when they should be in government designated health centres.
The implication as explained by the minister is that patients are referred to government health facilities when their condition worsens, hence his warning that private hospitals found keeping in admission suspected Covid-19 patients would be held responsible for the late referral.
Although the Minister did not give any figures, it is likely that some patients have died after initially being admitted in these private hospitals.
It is also possible that even those who have died in government hospitals could have been saved had they been transferred earlier.
Dr Chilufya’s statement simply implies that private hospitals have not been cooperating with the Ministry of Health which is unfortu-nate.
It is like all they are interested in are the hefty bills that their wealthy patients will pay even when they do not have the capacity to handle Covid-19 cases.
If this is the case, we do not see any reason why the government must allow them to operate and endanger people’s lives. They must simply be closed.
At yesterday’s Covid-19 update in Lusaka, the minister said: “We have in our facilities two very sick patients who were referred from private health facilities. This is very sad and we wish to say that we will not continue tolerating this trend.”
He advised the public to get to designated Covid-19 testing and treatment facilities and avoid rushing to private facilities when they experience symptoms.
It is a pity that most people have a misconception that they would receive better treatment at private hospitals. They forget that even though there could be overcrowding at government hospitals, they are better equipped and staffed to handle complicated cases.
Moreover, people ought to take comfort that the Covid-19 prevalent rate in Zambia has been far lower than most developed countries thanks to the robust measures put in place by the government.
We wish to reiterate the minister’s advice to the public to get to designated Covid-19 testing and treatment facilities and avoid rushing to private facilities when they experience symptoms.
The public must be reminded that this is not the first time that private health centres have been found wanting since the pandemic broke out in March.
We recall the controversy over allegations early this year when it was disclosed that some private health institutions could be issuing fake Covid-19 test results when they were not authorised to carry out tests.
This was cited as one of the reasons why the country suddenly witnessed an increase in the brought in dead cases at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
This prompted Change Life Zambia director Joseph Kasongo to demand for an investigation of all BIDs to ascertain which health facil-ities were handling the patients that eventually collapsed and died at home after being declared Covid-19 free when in actual fact they were positive.
According to Mr Kasongo, apart from some government institutions only two private entities, the CIDRZ and Medilab were authorised testing facilities for Covid-19, yet almost all private health providers were conducting tests.
Dr Chilufya yesterday assured the public that only Covid-19 designated centres had the facilities and expertise to handle the pandemic and people should not be fooled that they could get better treatment elsewhere.
That is a lie. If private hospitals do not want to heed the government’s directives, Dr Chilufya should not hesitate but order that they be closed than be allowed to continue exploiting the public