Spotlight: COVID-19 treatment costs a fortune

Muscat: As the country is going through the second spell of night lockdown, authorities have reiterated that the onus of keeping the deadly virus away lies with each individual even as the government is taking all possible measures to battle COVID-19.

The cost of treating the pandemic is rising and it is said that anywhere between RO 500 and RO 1,500 per patient is incurred either by the state or by the sponsor as the case may be. The financial burden weighs more as health insurance covers only less than 30 per cent of the treatment cost. Insurance doesn’t cover the cost of consumables like single use PPE kit used in the COVID-19 treatment.

“The average cost of COVID-19 treatment varies depending on severity of the case, stay in ICU, available medical devices, such as running cost of ECMO which is very expensive,” said Dr Sayyid Jaffar Hussain, Chief of Cabinet and WHO Representative to the Sultanate of Oman, Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean.

“The cost of COVID-19 treatment cannot be predicted at once and it depends upon various factors,” says Dr Basheer Alikaparambil , Head of the Department, Internal Medicine and COVID-19 treatment team at a private hospital.

“Having said, the cumulative costs of various services, equipment and disposable goods plus rent and the duration would take anything around RO 500 to RO 1,000 and above,” adds Dr Basheer.

“COVID-19 treatment depends upon the severity of the disease and organs involved,” says Dr Dilip Singhvi, Specialist- Internal Medicine, adding that the treatment depends upon the severity of the disease and organs involved.COVID-19 mostly affects lungs and respiratory system.

A private hospital in Muscat is charging RO 75 per day for a COVID-19 patient as it involves single use PPE kit for medical personnel and laboratory tests which have to be repeated.
A single PPE kit includes a pair of nitrile gloves, a single-use coverall, goggles with transparent glasses, an N-95 mask, shoe covers, and a face shield. Since each of these items are separately considered consumables, there is a significant increase in the number of consumables used in the treatment of COVID-19 infection.

The cost goes up once a patient undergoes imaging tests and radiological investigations like x-ray and HRCT. It will be more if the patient suffers from diabetes, heart problems, high BP, chronic lung disease like COPD and others.

The basic cost for establishing Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) treatment centre is estimated as $34,815 which is just for furniture and consumables.

“We have two of our staff members currently taking treatment for coronavirus at a private hospital and the costs are way too high. We are spending RO 1,000 to 2,000 every day and we don’t know the future of the company,” Maryam al Shukli (name changed for want of privacy), co-owner of a small scale construction company that employs 35 workers, said.  “I strongly request that there should be some subsidised treatment plan at private hospitals.”