The government of South Africa agreed how much it is going to pay the private hospitals and the medical practitioners for treating the severely ill coronavirus or COVID-19 patients if the public hospitals get out of space, a senior health official told Reuters.

The government has been in discussions for months with the private organizations and the medieval associations ahead of a possible scenario where the public hospitals go out of critical care beds.

South African Government Agrees on a Deal With Private Hospitals for COVID-19

Coronavirus
Workers make face masks in the workshop of a textile company in Jimo District of Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Feb. 12, 2020. Qingdao Municipal Bureau of Industry and Information Technology has mobilized two large textile companies to produce face masks to help the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic. With the help and coordination of local authorities, the companies have retrofitted their production equipment and modified the assembly lines to produce face masks. It's expected that an average of 60,000 face masks could be produced per day in the first phase of production. (Photo by Liang Xiaopeng/Xinhua/IANS) Xinhua/IANS

The agreement has been reached on a daily fee of up to 16,000 rands ($950) for COVID-19 patients that get treated in critical care beds in private hospitals, said Anban Pillay, the health ministry's deputy director-general for national health insurance.

The fee includes the cost of using the bed, paying a team of specialists to treat the patient, and additional services including pathology and radiology. Now that high-level terms have been agreed with the private sector, health departments in the country's nine provinces will sign "service-level" agreements, Pillay said.

Critical Care Beds Estimates Vary Widely

Estimates vary widely as to how many critical care beds there are in the country. A ministry presentation in April put the total at around 3,300, with two-thirds of those in the private sector. Healthcare provider Netcare estimates there are some 6,000 beds, with around 3,800 in private hospitals. South Africa had recorded 45,973 cases of the new coronavirus as of Saturday, the most in Africa, with the number rising more steeply in recent weeks.

As of late May, around 1,100 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, but it is not clear how many were in critical care. Pillay said he expected the Western Cape provincial health department would use critical care beds in private hospitals soon, followed by the Eastern Cape. The Western Cape accounts for 66 percent of the country's cases and the Eastern Cape 12 percent. "Given the situation in the Western Cape it was important we close this matter," Pillay said.

(With agency inputs)