It emerged yesterday that the federal government may have started a crackdown on private hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the country.

Apprehensive that Nigeria was experiencing an influx of imported COVID-19 cases into the country by travelers, including returning Nigerians, the federal government had last month warned private hospitals against treating cases of coronavirus, saying it was highly contagious and very risky to their medical personnel and other patients.

Instead, it advised private hospitals to refer any suspected case of coronavirus to the designated centers for diagnosis and treatment.

LEADERSHIP Friday gathered reliably that in a concerted effort to deal decisively with erring private hospitals, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had been mandated “to constitute a crack team made up of joint security operatives to monitor private health facilities admitting coronavirus patients for treatment.

“Members of the crack team which has since commenced operation are working clandestinely as undercover operatives so that the private facilities would not identify them and conceal their illegal handling of coronavirus patients”, a source close to the PTF who did not want his name in print told our correspondent.

Confirming this, minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, yesterday threatened that private hospitals and medical practitioners engaged in unauthorised treatment of COVID-19 patients of risk being shut down for decontamination.

“I shall use this opportunity to again strongly advise health professionals against private or secret management of people who have COVID-19 outside of accredited health facilities”, the minister warned during yesterday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19.

Ehanire also hinted that due to the available evidence of community transmission in the country, there will be more community testing.

He said there will also be social mobilisation at the grassroots to ensure physical distancing and advisories on the use of masks or improvised face coverings like handkerchiefs or scarves over the mouth and nose to reduce risk of transmission.

“Again, the revised case definition for testing includes all patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, contacts of people confirmed to have COVID-19, persons with fever and respiratory tract symptoms of unknown cause,” he explained.

On confirmed cases, Ehanire said, “As of today, 16th April, 2020, a total of 407 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19, 99 patients have been discharged and 12 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria, all with comorbidities.

“The 34 new cases confirmed are distributed as follows: 18 in Lagos, 12 in Kano, 2 in Katsina, and 1 each in Delta and Niger States. Quite unfortunately, the latest fatality in Lagos is a medical professional. I want to express my condolences to the family.”

Similarly, Osun State government has again warned that private hospitals in the state are not allowed to admit and treat suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients, saying anyone that flouts the order would be prosecuted.

The commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, who gave the warning yesterday, maintained that non-adherence to the directive would attract prosecution by the state government.

Egbemode said that the state government has accredited health facilities with required personnel to treat suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state.

She noted: “The State Government of Osun has reiterated that private hospitals across the State are not allowed to treat COVID-19 patients, whether suspected or confirmed.

“The state has recognised, accredited and adequate Government facilities with the required personnel to take care of patients, whether suspected or confirmed, at its Isolation and Care Centres. Testing and treatment are free in all government facilities.”

The commissioner further noted that attempt to treat COVID-19 patients in private facilities would only open the state to community infections and negate all the sacrifices people of Osun had made so far.

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