Paging the private sector in the COVID fight-THE HINDU-08-06-2020


Here, we propose certain policy options to leverage private sector resources for testing, hospitalisation, procurement of biomedical equipment and supplies, and a central intelligence system.

Laboratory services:

States that already have private laboratories under a public–private partnership contract can be asked to add COVID-19 tests. The government may procure test kits and the private sector could charge a service fee from the government. E-vouchers generated by tele-health call centres can subsequently be reimbursed by the government. The cost of tests, key performance indicators and payment system should be worked out in the purchase contract.

Hospital infrastructure:

Hospitalisation of COVID-19 cases cannot be restricted to hospitals in major cities alone. Improving the infrastructure and capacity in tier II and tier III cities in collaboration with the private sector is critical. The latest announcement to increase viability gap funding to 30% is bound to ease the capex pressure for the private sector. Alternatively, a private hospital partner can refurbish, operate and later transfer the ICU ward.

Though the model takes more time, the operator can convert the facility into any other speciality ward in the future. The Centre can provide viability gap funding to the State to support the development of such a facility.

The current government tariffs do not seem to evoke interest from the private sector.

Central intelligence system:

An IT system with artificial intelligence capability should be the backbone of supporting all public and private sector efforts in combating COVID-19. The intelligence system should seamlessly help in case identification, contact tracing, managing a tele-health centre, generating e-vouchers, authorising tests, managing referrals for isolation and hospitalisation in the private sector, payment, follow-up, etc. IT behemoths in India should be roped in to configure an integrated system to detect any unusual pattern in terms of an increase in numbers.

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