Covid-19 has created a range of problems for Pakistan. These problem range from the economic domain to the social one. One industry that has unsurprisingly been tested to it utmost limits is the healthcare industry. We have already seen how well the government owned healthcare facilities are faring. Makeshift facilities have been created and in many cases the proper standard operating protocols are not being followed which has only exacerbated the issue. This also begs the question, how are the private healthcare facilities faring. The short answer is that these facilities are more less in the same waters as their public counterparts. Many are not using the proper equipment and are also failing to properly diagnose their patients and administer effective treatment. At first glance it may seem logical to assume that these hospitals are solely to blame for these problem but a deeper look at the issue reveals the distribution of responsibility is not as one sided as one might expect
What escapes the attention of many people is that many private healthcare facilities do not carry out their medical testing in house but rather they outsource these tests to private labs. Medical testing is a crucial part of the treatment process. Any path to successful treatment starts with diagnosis and that begins with accurate testing. Presently there are two sorts of tests available for diagnosing covid-19. One is the PCR test which is an antibody test, a DNA sample is taken using a swab and analysis is performed to confirm whether the tested individual has the virus or not. The other is based on testing for viral RNA however it should be mentioned that the world Health Organization (WHO) has only approved the former.
The outsourcing mentioned dramatically changes how responsibilities are distributed. Any diagnosis a medical professional makes is based on the results of the test. The responsibility of the professional is to interpret the results of the test to the best of his or her medical knowledge and administer the proper care for the patient. The responsibility of the labs is to make the test they carry out are done so with the proper equipment and that the results of these tests are as accurate as possible. Previously it was mentioned that many hospitals are shouldering the blame for misdiagnosing patients and thus not administering the proper treatment. The onus of that error lies with the party that tested the individual. If the testing was not carried out in house as is often the case in most private hospitals, then the hospital cannot be held liable for the mistake especially as the hospital administers treatment based on the results of the test.
Taking the example of National hospital in Lahore. The hospital has an isolation ward that follows all of the guidelines laid out by international guidelines. The ward is kept separate from the main hospital so as to maintain a healthy distance. It uses state-of-the-art equipment to treat its patients and boasts a 95% success rate in the treatment of covid-19 cases. What is noteworthy is that the hospital is not responsible for the testing of its patients. The PCR test is administered by third party labs whose employees are responsible for carrying out the tests with their own equipment. The hospital is not involved in the testing process and only receives the results. In the case of a misdiagnosis and subsequent wrong treatment the question of liability is answered by considering two important factors. Whether the misdiagnosis was the result of a doctor’s incorrect interpretation of the results or in the actual application of the test. One places the blame on the hospital whereas the other holds the third party lab which carried out the test liable. It is thus important to differentiate between the two.