Hospitals cannot turn away private Covid-19 patients: MoH

Private hospitals in the Sultanate are obliged to receive and treat private COVID-19 patients – Omani (insured) and expatriate – regardless of their ability to pay the cost of their hospitalisation, according to a top official of the Ministry of Health.

Dr Mazin al Khabori (pictured), Director General of Private Health Establishments, stressed that the government’s recent declaration guaranteeing the reimbursement of costs borne by private hospitals in the treatment of private patients, mandates the private healthcare sector to unreservedly treat any private patient – particularly an expatriate – afflicted with the novel coronavirus.

“Private hospitals have an obligation to accept private COVID patients whether or not they are covered by health insurance or their inability to guarantee payment themselves. We have guaranteed the private hospitals that if they do not receive payment from the employer or the insurer, the government will reimburse them suitably. Consequently, at the point of care, no individual – especially from the private sector – should be denied treatment for COVID because they may lack insurance coverage or the required funds.”

Speaking to the Observer, the official explained that the government would employ legal means to recoup any costs from employers of private patients treated at private hospitals.  Under Omani Labour Law, companies and sponsors have an obligation, up to a certain limit and subject to certain exclusions, to pay the medical bills of their staff, he noted.

With COVID-19 expected to remain part of the epidemiological threat landscape for the foreseeable future, private hospitals must be suitably primed and equipped to open their facilities to COVID treatment as they do other diseases and ailments.

“As COVID is going to remain with us for some time, hospitals have been advised to embrace two pathways: one for COVID, and the other for non-COVID cases, so they can cater to both types of patients at the same time,” said the official.

“It is no longer practical for hospitals to try to remain exclusively focused on non-COVID treatments. At some point, they will receive COVID cases, and cannot keep turning such patients away or moving them out as soon as they are discovered as positive.  This is illogical.  Hospitals should create enough capacity to handle and treat such cases as part of their normal offering,” he added.