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Govt starts paying for quarantine facilities

Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) says it will start paying 34 companies whose properties were converted into quarantine facilities for Coronavirus (Covid-19) patients and those awaiting results of their Covid-19 tests.

NACOSEC’s senior manager in charge of administration and logistics, Maile Masoebe, this week told the Sunday Express that they will also begin procuring personal protective equipment for health personnel and other equipment to help fight the deadly virus.

Owners of the quarantine facilities are yet to be paid since they were contracted by the government in April 2020.

The Health ministry’s director general Dr Nyane Letsie is on record saying the government had budgeted M11 million to pay for quarantine facilities from April to June 2020.

Mr Masoebe attributed the delays in processing the payments to the red tape that had seen NACOSEC operate without a bank account since it was established in March 2020, initially under the name, National Emergency Command Centre.

“We delayed (making payments) because we had to follow government protocols on opening our own bank account,” Mr Masoebe said without elaborating.

“We will still account to the cabinet for all the money which has been budgeted for the Covid-19 response but we have been given the power to run our budget.

“The government is moving the whole budget to the NACOSEC account and when that has been done, we will begin payments.

“We have started collecting invoices from the quarantine centres and we will start paying them from next week. We will standardise operations in all the centres to achieve uniformity in terms of the services they provide.

“We will ensure that all the quarantine facilities follow an agreed diet plan. We will also ensure that all the facilities are up to standard with hot water and heating systems.”

Former Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng this week deplored the poor conditions at the Berea isolation hospital for Covid-19 patients.

She said she saw first-hand the poor state of the facility when she visited her sister, Dr Thabelo Ramatlapeng, who has been admitted there since last Saturday after testing positive for Covid-19.

Dr Thabelo, also known as Malimpho Moleleki, is married to opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki.

Incidentally, several Covid-19 positive nurses raised similar complaints about the poor conditions at the facility to the Sunday Express last week.

Mr Masoebe this week acknowledged the complaints about the Berea hospital and promised to improve its conditions as well as those of other quarantine facilities.

Apart from paying the quarantine facilities, Mr Masoebe said they would also pay providers of Covid-19 awareness campaign services and companies and purchase medical equipment for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for covid patients.

NACOSEC chief executive officer, Thabo Khasipe, this week told the Lesotho Times that they urgently needed to procure medical equipment which was in short supply.

He said there were only two ICU beds available in the country for Covid-19 patients. He said there was a real danger of people dying because they could not be admitted due to the shortage of ICU beds.

“Our country effectively has only two ICU beds at Maluti Hospital recently donated by Standard Lesotho Bank. There are 10 other ICU beds at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital which are effectively not available because they cannot be used for Covid-19 patients. They are used for non Covid-19 patients.

“Our country is facing an imminent problem of people dying not because of an act of God, but rather because our healthcare system is not capacitated to deal with a rise in infections. These are needless deaths. Our national strategy is to do everything in our power to raise the capacity of the healthcare system to deal with the virus by acquiring more ICU beds and respirators,” Mr Khasipe said.

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