Private clinics will not be able to help with hospital staff shortages

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Private medical establishments are prepared to be more involved in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, yet it is unlikely that they will be able to help with staff, Latvian Radio reported December 16.

With rapidly increasing numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the Ministry of Health and the National Health Service (NVD) have asked private clinics to help deal with the crisis. This plan is to be supported, said Daiga Behmane, pro-dean of Riga Stradiņš University (RSU), in an interview to Latvian Radio.

“At the moment, state-paid services are provided to us by private service providers. It is not a problem to divert public funding to these levels of care where there are specialists who can provide help,” Behmane said.

Until now, private medical authorities have provided testing and home care for COVID-19 patients, but it has been now asked for their staff to be directed to public hospitals.

At the moment, there is a small response, said Sanita Janka, head of the Health Ministry's Department for the Quality of Medicine.

One of the clinics addressed by NVD is Aiwa Clinic. Its spokeswoman, Līga Ribkinska, said the clinic is ready to support, yet staff heading to other health-care institutions could be difficult.

“'Aiwa Clinic' works specifically with doctors prepared for its specialty – surgeons, traumatologists, orthopedics, who might not be prepared for COVID-19 patient care and would need special training,” Ribkinska said.

In addition, other patients in need of surgical assistance and care could suffer.

Veselības centrs 4 also explained that it would be difficult to “lend” staff to hospitals. Medics are lacking, said the center's chief executive, Māris Rēvalds. Doctors could only go to help state hospitals if they wanted to.

He believes that private medical authorities could be more involved and would like to be approached more quickly, more often and more matter-of-fact. Until now, there have been only a few productive discussions, such as COVID-19 patient home care or equipment rentals.

The ministry will meet with heads of private clinics Friday to discuss the action plan.

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