KARACHI: With concerns about the provincial health department's capacity to deal with a widespread coronavirus outbreak, the Sindh government has decided to hand over charge of 'isolation facilities' set up for coronavirus patients in the provincial capital to private hospitals.
The Sindh health department has also decided to declare 26 more isolation facilities in different parts of the province, while three more facilities have been identified for the purpose in the outskirts of Karachi.
Though not a single patient has yet tested positive outside the metropolis, the health department plans to set up 11 isolation facilities in Sukkur division and four each in Shaheed Benazirabad, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas divisions.
A department official told The Express Tribune that the decision to hand over the administration of facilities in Karachi had been taken because of managerial issues within the health department. "It is not so easy to rely on the department's own structure," he added.
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Confirming the decision, health department spokesperson Meeran Yousuf said that the final proposal to give charge to Indus Hospital was still pending. "We will hand over the facilities to the Indus Hospital through a public-private partnership initiative," she explained.
However, talks about the matter have been completed between the Sindh government and the private hospital, while an agreement is expected to be signed in the upcoming days. The provincial government has further allocated Rs300 million for the Indus Hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus patients.
A health department official, on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that Rs300 million had been released to the Indus Hospital for diagnostic kits and protective equipment. He added that orders have been placed to import testing kits, which will be delivered in Karachi next week to two private hospitals that have the necessary diagnostic facilities.
Indus Hospital chief Dr Abdul Bari Khan said that the two hospitals previously reserved for coronavirus patients, which have 50 beds and 36 beds respectively, would be functional by next week as well.
Meanwhile, the Sindh government has released Rs100 million to hospitals and health centres in 29 districts of the province, to deal with a potential outbreak in interior Sindh.
However, health experts considered this amount 'insufficient,' adding that the funds given to public hospitals was inadequate compared to what had been given to the private sector.
On Wednesday, six patients were tested for the infectious disease, with all of them being declared negative. A total of 67 tests have been carried out in the last week, with only two of them turning up positive.
In the daily taskforce meeting, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah was informed that 823 people had been placed in quarantine at their residences. He was also told that 2,398 people went to Iran, of which 2,100 have been contacted by district response teams while only 1,277 have returned to Sindh so far.
Shah ordered all deputy commissioners to remain alert and keep an eye on any travellers coming from Taftan via Jacobabad or Hub.
Meanwhile, 10 travellers who reached their village near Garhi Yaseen, Shikarpur district, from Iran on Tuesday have been placed in quarantine at their residences. Yousuf claimed that the medical teams were alert and trying to screen all suspected cases.
In response to a question, Yousuf said that the medical officers in the union councils of these travellers had been directed to carry out random checks on the suspected patients. "Over 800 such persons are in home quarantine," she explained, adding that the health department had suggested that the CM ask the police to assist them in the matter.
She further said that the deployment of police officials to each house was the main hurdle, adding that the only way to ensure their quarantine was through random visits.
With additional input from Hafeez Tunio