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KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has further enhanced the scope of Refinance Facility to Combat COVID-19 (RFCC) to improve the health facilities in the country.

On March 17, 2020, SBP introduced a refinance scheme, titled Refinance Facility to Combat COVID-19 (RFCC), to support the hospitals and health sector for providing services to directly fight Covid-19.

Under this scheme, banks provide concessionary loans at a maximum end-user rate of three percent for five years for hospitals and medical centres to purchase medical equipment and set up isolation wards for developing capacity and supporting the health sector in the fight against COVID-19.

Keeping in view the encouraging response and the potential to help developing the health facilities in the country, the SBP has now expanded the scope of this refinance facility further.

The scheme now allows manufacturers of protective gears and equipment, including items such as masks, dresses, testing kits, hospital beds, ventilators, etc., to avail financing under RFCC.

Moreover, to cope with the rising need of the health facilities in general in the country, the SBP has allowed hospitals serving patients even other than COVID-19 to avail this facility.

The refinance facility would be available for setting up of hospitals or expanding of the existing ones fulfilling minimum specified standards. For setting up new hospitals under this scheme, payments will be released by the banks on completing relevant procedures.

Fifty-bed tertiary care hospitals registered with respective provincial/federal agencies/commissions having a 24-hour, fully-equipped emergency and ICU/CCU with ventilators attached to each bed can avail financing facility for expansion.

As per terms and conditions, the hospitals should also have an in-house laboratory facility comprising radiology/CT/MRI/ultrasound/angiography/ angioplasty and operation theaters and OPD facility.

The RFCC is a highly-subsidized facility through which the SBP provides refinance to banks at 0 percent markup whereas banks can keep a maximum margin of 3 percent. Some of the banks treating this as part of their CSR are keeping margins even lower.

Since its inception, Rs6.4 billion of concessionary loans have been approved for hospitals and other eligible facilities to fight COVID-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020