One Week in, how is Afghanistan’s Private Sector Coping with COVID-19 Detection and Treatment?

In the past 24 hours, 1,226 suspected coronavirus samples have been tested by the government’s laboratories, of which 564 have been confirmed positive said the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) today.

The addition of these new cases has pushed Afghanistan’s national total to 26,874. It will mostly cross 27,000 by Thursday, at the current rate of spread of the infection.

The number of active cases is 20,212 currently.

According to the MoPH, 60,298 samples have been tested all across the country so far.

With the ever-increasing number of people with COVID-19 in the country, the government’s Central Public Health Laboratory facilities were decentralized to 11 testing laboratories across the provinces of Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Kabul and Kandahar, with the last-known capacity of conducting 2,000 tests a day.

At a point in late May, the Deputy Minister of Public Health Wahid Majrooh had said the labs were receiving more than 10 to 20 times the number of samples than they could process per day.

However, over the past week, the Herat labs have run out of testing kits and were suspended.

But Akmal Samsor, a spokesman for the MoPH, said, “All laboratories are active, and all laboratories are being inspected.”

A number of Herat’s activists have denied the government’s claims. They also say the two hospitals that were dedicated for Coronavirus patients in the province are running into problems due to a shortage of oxygen.

The Nangarhar labs only have the capacity for around 100 to 150 tests a day. However, social media accounts from the province also indicate hospitals are facing a lack of oxygen.

The situation in the country’s capital, Kabul is equally bad.

Recently, Kabul Governor Yaqub Heydari said the number of patients and Coronavirus deaths in the city were increasing, and soon there would be a million people who would have been infected by COVID-19 in the national capital.

Enter private testing facilities

Overwhelmed by the new samples being sent to them, the MoPH tackled the emerging health emergency by announcing that they were working with private laboratories and hospitals to increase their testing and treatment facilities.

On June 11, Ahmad Javad Osmani, the Acting Minister of Public Health announced that patients were unsatisfied with the lack of oxygen, medicine, health personnel, and delays in getting their results back.

So, the government decided to mobilize all private health centers, hospitals, clinics and labs, to diagnose, treat and take care of COVID-19 patients.

Under their new response policy, any private facility will have to be “well-equipped and well-facilitated” before they can admit a COVID-19 patient and have to follow three essential criteria: necessary equipment, trained team, separate wards to ensure the virus does not spread to other parts of the hospital.

Kabul’s French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children (French Hospital) is one of the few that is authorized to conduct tests and claims it can process over 100 tests per day. City Lab, which was conducting diagnostic tests from this week, charges around 7,600 AFN ($100) per sample.

“Private hospitals usually charge patients an examination fee, but due to this crisis, they are charging citizens the minimum amount,” Semsor told Reporterly.

Even as many private hospitals showed readiness to conduct COVID-19 tests, according to new information, many facilities in Kabul actually lack the capacity to conduct COVID-19 tests.

The MoPH has been trying to increase the screening and care capacities so that private organizations can meet the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) or theur will not be allowed to conduct COVID-19 tests.

Such facilities will be dealt with seriously, Semsor warned.

“Now, with the cooperation of private hospitals, the number of Coronavirus tests can be increased from 2,000 to over 3,000,” he added.

The MoPH also plans to purchase more testing kits so that it can eventually set up a testing lab in each province. As their logistics chains are reinstated after the lockdowns, the ministry predicts they will not face any shortages in the future.

Contributed by Zackaria Noori; Edited by Anugya Chitransh

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