South African Govt strikes a deal with private hospitals on COVID-19

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The South African government has struck a deal with private hospitals and medical practitioners, on whom it will have to rely in the treatment of severely ill Covid-19 patients if public hospitals run out of space.

The government has been in talks for months with private firms and medical associations ahead of a probable scenario where public hospitals run out of critical care beds.

Providers will be able to charge a daily fee of up to 16,000 rand ($950) for Covid-19 patients that get treated in critical care beds in private hospitals, Anban Pillay, the health ministry’s deputy director-general for national health insurance, told Reuters.

The fee includes the cost of using the bed, paying a team of specialists to treat the patient and additional services including pathology and radiology.

Estimates vary widely as to how many critical care beds there are in the country. A ministry presentation in April put the total at around 3,300, with two-thirds of those in the private sector, while Healthcare provider Netcare estimates there are some 6,000 beds, with around 3,800 in private hospitals.

South Africa had recorded 45,973 coronavirus cases as of Saturday, the most in Africa, with the number rising more steeply in recent weeks.