In the wake of more people testing positive for COVID-19, the government has taken steps to provide the necessary facilities in the best interest of the public such as paid Intermediate Care Centre facilities for those who do not want to be quarantined at government quarantine facilities. However, medical experts are of the view that self-quarantining at home should also be an option and that the private sector should also be involved to ease the burden on the public health system.
Coordination by Epidemiology Unit
Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera said the Epidemiology Unit would be informed should person tests positive via a PCR test carried out at a private lab. “Thereafter we will inform the medical officer of health in the area and arrange for the person to be sent for treatment. Currently there is one private hospital and 74 government hospitals treating COVID patients.”
To find full list of MOHs and their respective areas please refer: https://hpb.health.gov.lk/media/pdf/operational-guidelines.pdf
Self quarantining at home could be an option
“We are obliged to inform the Ministry of Health and Public Health Inspectors if a person tests positive at a private lab,” said Consultant Family Physician Dr. Ruvaiz Haniffa. “But the patient is given the freedom to choose between a government hospital and a private hospital. However, if your PCR test is positive but is asymptomatic, you have the option of taking treatment at an Intermediate COVID treatment Centre. That is by contacting the Sri Lanka Army or Lanka Hospitals.”
He said there could be a spike in PCR positive asymptomatic patients and suggested how the private sector could get involved in offloading the government system. “Local PHIs could also advise asymptomatic patients to undergo a period of self-quarantine at home while following health guidelines. In this case people also need to cooperate. If Sri Lankans respond appropriately they can assist the government to offload the existing burden in the public health service,” Dr. Haniffa said.
Paid isolation facilities for asymptomatic patients
Speaking to Daily Mirror, National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Chief and Sri Lanka Army Commander Shavendra Silva said asymptomatic patients could quarantine themselves at the Best Western Hotel which will be managed by Lanka Hospitals. “The facility at the Koggala Long Beach Hotel is managed by Sri Lanka Army and is almost full and we have requested for another 40 rooms. The rate at Koggala is Rs. 12,000 a day while the rate at Best Western Hotel is Rs.18,000 a day,” he said.
When asked about the procedure, Gen. Silva said when they receive a request on one of their hotlines, they would send an ambulance to despatch the patient to the quarantine facility of their choice.
The programme was initiated by the government to allow private hospitals to run paid Intermediate Care Centres considering people who did not want to quarantine themselves at government facilities.
PHIs observe discrepancies in coordination
When asked how private labs coordinate COVID-positive patients with PHIs, PHI Union Secretary M. Balasooriya said there were several issues to be considered. “Some labs have failed to send their reports to the area MOH office or the Infectious Disease Units in certain areas. Sometimes we get calls from the patient himself saying they have tested positive and that he or she was at home. So we feel the procedures are not properly followed in certain instances. Sometimes people come asking for quarantine certificates saying they had tested positive and had undergone a 14-day period of self-quarantine at home. There is a risk in such situations because if they had travelled we will be unable to trace the person’s contacts,” he said.