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Access, Equity Reasons For Private Health Facilities Closure

Source: Vientiane Times

The National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control plans to shut down private hospital and clinics nationwide as it seeks to ensure the public have maximum possible equity in access to free and high standard quality COVID-19 testing and treatment facilities.

Deputy Head of the National Taskforce Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Muongpak told a press conference on April 2 that the issuance of the order was part of government measures to fight the COVID-19 virus, infections of which are now spreading in the country.

He also said the order aimed to ensure that members of the public have equity in access to national standard health and medical facilities, in particular those in need of Covid-19 testing and treatment.

He cited as a reason that private hospitals would inevitably charge for Covid-19 testing and treatment service while public hospitals were committed to providing these health services free of charge.

One of the major factors that encouraged the authorities to close down private health care facilities was that about 90 percent of the doctors and nurses who operate at private clinics and hospitals after hours are also already engaged as government officials, primarily in the health sector.

The closure of the private health care facilities would, therefore, enable the authorities to mobilise all medics, doctors, nurses, and available medical resources into a single pool so that they can use these resources to fight Covid-19.

All medical services need to be prepared with the correct specialised and modern equipment to treat Covid-19 symptoms if any cases that are suspected or confirmed, officials told Vientiane Times.

The private hospital and clinic closure is in line with the health care law on the treatment required to ensure the convenience and safety of patients.

Some private health care facilities do not meet national standards.

The healthcare sector regulator has stressed the need for all Lao people to have access to high-quality healthcare services.

Ensuring patient safety is also one of the most critical objectives, the officials said.

A senior official from the healthcare and rehabilitation department said health officials expressed concern about the private clinics or private hospitals imposing high charges for testing and treating COVID patients, adding that some people have already complained about the issue.

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He said there would be tests and treatment offered free of charge for COVID-19 at the government hospitals.

The free testing and treatment offer applies to any person in Laos who has symptoms, following the procedures to address Covid-19.

However, any person without symptoms who insist on a test for the virus without a referral from a doctor would be liable to pay the test fee themselves.

Dr Phouthone said health officials were strengthening measures for Covid-19 response and ensuring that all the public can access necessary healthcare.

“We are preparing central hospitals and local hospitals, including doctors and nurses, as well as medical teams from the Lao People’s Armed Forces, to join the effort against Covid-19”.

According to the ministry, at present, there were estimated to be 17 private hospitals and more than 1,000 private clinics nationwide.

Last year, a total of 248 private clinics operated or owned by foreign and
Lao nationals around the country were ordered to shut down temporarily after the Ministry of Health found them to be in breach of the healthcare regulations, according to the Ministry’s Healthcare and Rehabilitation Department.