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Covid test rates need to be uniform: High Court to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh

The division bench of Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, said: “Taking a cue from rates prescribed by the State of Punjab, we feel that State of Haryana and UT Chandigarh need to reconsider the rates prescribed and act accordingly.”

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
May 28, 2021 4:32:58 am
Health Worker takes Swab sample of People for Covid-19 Testing at CHC Model town in Patiala. (Express Photo by Harmeet Sodhi)

Hearing a matter related to the Covid-19 surge, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday directed that rates for rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh need to be uniform.

The division bench of Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, said: “Taking a cue from rates prescribed by the State of Punjab, we feel that State of Haryana and UT Chandigarh need to reconsider the rates prescribed and act accordingly.”

Chandigarh has reduced the rates for HRCT (chest) charged by private diagnostic centres to Rs 1,800. Finding the same to be reasonable, the bench said: “We hope and trust that the Punjab and Haryana shall impress upon private diagnostic centres in their respective jurisdictions to reduce the rates for HRCT (chest) on similar lines.”

“We also find that ICU control rooms are a necessity as relatives of the patient cannot be left in a state of anxiety if information regarding the medical condition of their kith and kin, who are admitted in the ICU, is not available to them. This also leads to complaints by relatives of patients and consequent fact-finding inquires. We thus feel that state government(s) need to issue necessary directions in this regard on the analogy of PGIMER, Chandigarh, and other reputed institutions,” added the bench.

The court also said that guidelines issued by UOI (Union of India) for screening, diagnosis and management of mucormycosis be examined by all states and necessary steps be taken. Appreciating the work done by frontline workers who have rendered their services in this need of hour, the HC also said: “Those who shirk their duties in these difficult times, their particulars shall be furnished to nodal agencies formed to deal with crises created by Covid-19 which this court shall examine at the appropriate stage.”

Earlier on Thursday, amicus curiae Rupinder Khosla in resumed proceedings raised the issues of overcharging for CT scan, HRCT (chest), regulatory mechanism for rates to be charged by various laboratories, spread of black fungus and the corporate response under CSR.

On the issue, Baldev Raj Mahajan, advocate general, Haryana submitted that in all government hospitals, CT scan facility is being provided free of cost. However, in private centers, HRCT (chest) is being charged at Rs 2,100. As regards to spread of black fungus, a state-level committee has been constituted. It has been declared an epidemic and is now being dealt with on a war footing by the committee. He submitted that under CSR, some contributions have been received which are being utilized to with the pandemic.

Further responding on the issue of preventive measures to curb spread of disease of black fungus, Advocate General, Punjab, Atul Nanda submitted that overuse of steroids, particularly in diabetic patients, often leads to patients getting infected by black fungus as well. Nanda further submitted that an expert committee has examined the issue at length and issued advisories in this regard. Besides, Amphotericin B has been procured but the state is still falling short of the requisite demand for which intervention of Centre is required. As regards to oxygen containers, on instructions from director, Health Services, Punjab, he submitted that some containers have been arranged by Punjab on its own which has taken care of the situation at present. Nanda further said that the positivity rate in urban areas of Punjab has come down to 2.98 per cent and in rural areas, to 3.74 per cent. He further submitted that the state government has stipulated that private labs in Punjab would not charge more than Rs 350 (including GST) for the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and Rs 450 (including GST) for the RT-PCR test.

Senior Advocate Anupam Gupta, on Thursday said that certain fact-finding inquiries were instituted against certain hospitals who were allegedly fleecing innocent citizens, and enquiry reports need to be examined by this court. Gupta further submitted that all hospitals ought to have an ICU control room in order to ensure that relatives of the patients remain in regular touch with them and are aware of their medical condition. According to Gupta, such an ICU control room has been created in the PGIMER, Chandigarh, under instructions of the health ministry, Government of India. If such instructions are issued that would be in consonance with the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution and observations of the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar’s case.

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