Private health services back to normal in Oman

Private healthcare services in the Sultanate, having suffered significant curtailment of their activities during the pandemic, have now returned to normality, according to a top official of the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Mazin al Khabori (pictured), Director General of Private Health Establishments, said the Ministry has been working with private health establishments to ensure they are suitably compliant with COVID-19 safety guidelines as they restore services across the board.

“I can confirm that the large majority of private health establishments — including hospitals, dental clinics, laboratory and diagnostic centres, dermatological clinics and optical shops – are now operating normally across Muscat Governorate and elsewhere around Oman.  A few centres are facing challenges, particularly with regard to healthcare staff still stranded abroad, but other than these limited issues, the private health sector is operating at pre-pandemic levels.”

Speaking to the Observer, Dr Al Khabori welcomed what he described as “the spirit of cooperation” with which private health establishments are now adhering to Ministry-mandated guidelines designed to ensure that unsuspecting COVID-19 cases turning up at their facilities are suitably managed.

“Our teams are carrying out regular inspections to ensure compliance with these guidelines.  Where compliance is lacking, we will be forced to intervene and call for the temporary closure of the facilities until any deficiencies can be remedied.”

The new guidelines prescribe, among other things, the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers.  With supplies of the full range of PPE now available in the local market, private hospitals should have no difficulty sourcing their requirements, said the official. He stressed that the Ministry is committed to making available supplies from its stock in the event of any shortfalls in the domestic market.  This commitment also extends to medications and consumables required by private hospitals in the management of COVID-19 patients, he said.

The Directorate General of Private Health Establishments, said Dr Al Khabori, is also ready to render any assistance to private clinics still impacted by the lockdown measures imposed by authorities to contain the spread of the pandemic.

“For example, we are working with the competent authorities to enable the early return of expatriate health workers stranded in their respective countries because of the suspension of flights.  We are also ready to assist in the paperwork necessary to support the recruitment of new staff, and so on.  The private health sector has been hurt by the pandemic, its revenues falling as people stayed away to keep themselves safe from exposure to the virus.  We are keen for the sector to bounce back as rapidly as possible, work to restore public confidence in the safety of the facilities, and play their full part in the delivery of healthcare services.”

The Directorate General of Private Health Establishments, he said, was also assisting inspectors from the Ministry of Manpower and Muscat Municipalities in evaluating hygiene conditions in labour camps, some of which have been linked to clusters of COVID-19 infections.

In this regard, he underlined the need for employers to introduce and enforce standard COVID-19 precautions – such as social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and use of face masks – to limit any potential spread of the infection among their workers.

Oman’s private health sector currently comprises over 1,800 establishments distributed across clinics, polyclinics, hospitals, company clinics, university clinics, laboratory, dental centres, dermatology clinics, optical shops, diagnostic centres, and physiotherapy clinics.