Healthcare authorities overnight involved non-government sector to expand COVID-19 facilities nationwide to intensify combat against the virus, following a South Korea's "kiosk" or "booth" model.
"The government is introducing booths or kiosks to collect samples for COVID-19 testing across the country involving initially an NGO," Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad told BSS.
He said non-government healthcare service JKG Healthcare was engaged to perform the task following the South Korean model initially setting up 44 such booths, eight in Dhaka, eight in Cox's Bazar and rests in coronavirus-hit regions of the country including Narayanganj.
The health services chief said the sample collection booths would be set up in different key points in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Coxbazar and other regions to quicken the COVID-19 testing and detection process.
Azad said his office would oversee JKG services in collecting samples to be tested, however, in designated government-run laboratories and expected the model to help restrict peoples' movement out of their respective neighbourhoods for testing purpose.
"We are welcoming NGO involvements and urging private sector to extend their hands to supplement the government efforts to prevent COVID-19 in view of the rapid growth of cases," Azad said.
A non-profit and non-government healthcare organization JKG treats poor patients as part of its mission while spokesman of theirs said they by now installed two booths at Narayanganj and started collecting samples.
"The booths look like glass cabins . . . our medical staff or healthcare professions equipped with protective gears will be inside sanitized booths and collect throat swabs of people who will stand or sit outside," he said.
The JKG official said they have a plan to eventually install a total of 320 sample collection booths across the country.
Officials at the directorate general of health services who are familiar with the development said the 44 booths would run as well some sub-booths to expedite sample collection from COVID-19 suspects.
They said the health workers engaged in the process were trained and instructed to strictly follow directives for their personal and others protection in performing the task.
According to the JKG, the medical technologist standing inside the cabin can use the gloves affixed on the booth to collect samples from people sitting outside the booth.
JKG said after collection of samples each time the gloves and the chair, on which the person whose samples were collected sat, would be disinfected.
"This method will keep the health professionals and also the hospitals safe as the booths will be installed in school or college premises," a JKG official said.
Bangladesh Private Medical College Association (BPMCA) president Mubin Khan, meanwhile, said all the 69 private medical colleges and hospitals in the country were providing healthcare services to the people round the clock during this crisis.
"Our association is on constant contact with concerned government health officials and organizations to extend to provide services to COVID-19 patients, if necessary," he said.
Khan said BPMCA by now handed over two private hospitals — 500-bed Shahbuddin Medical College Hospital bed and 700-bed Anwar Khan Medical College Hospital with 700-bed, — to the government to be used to treat coronavirus patients alone.
He said the private hospitals could provide their supports in sample collection and testing as expansion of this crucial detection facilities appeared to be of urgent need for quick conformation of COVID-19 cases.
"If necessary, we will provide 7 more private hospitals with 2500 beds to the government for COVID-19 treatment only," Khan said the private hospitals association also submitted a list of 600 doctors to the government to handle coronavirus cases.
He said most private medical hospitals prepared isolation centres for COVID-19 suspects and were referring ones to dedicated government-run hospitals who were showing nearly conformed symptoms.