Two days after Punjab’s Department of Medical Education and Research announced that private hospitals will be charged Rs 20,000 for every unit of plasma of recovered Covid-19 patient, government’s advisor on health and former PGIMER director Dr K K Talwar has defended the decision.
Talking to The Indian Express, Dr Talwar said that every unit of plasma was costing the state Rs 16,000-17,000 to conduct the test on a recovered patient to see whether he had enough antibodies. Then more tests were also to be run to transfuse it safely to the recipient Covid patient.
The department had issued a release to the media on Sunday stating that the government would provide private hospitals with plasma of recovered patients but for a price. Punjab’s decision was also compared with Delhi government that does not charge anything for plasma, and concerns were raised that the private hospitals would eventually pass on the burden to the patients. State’s Medical Education and Research Minister O P Soni had on Monday told The Indian Express that a final decision was yet to be taken on the matter.
While several experts agree privately that Rs 20,000 was rather exorbitant for a patient who was fighting for life as plasma is transfused to a critical patient, Dr Talwar said that earlier the plasma was being transfused as a part of trial being conducted by ICMR. “The ICMR was funding it. Now this has been left to the states. If the state is spending money, it can always charge the private hospitals as any patient who can afford treatment in a private hospital can afford Rs 20,000 for plasma therapy.”
He added that it was like cross subsidy. “The money charged will eventually go to the poor. If we are giving the plasma free of cost to the patients in government hospitals, we can charge the patients in private hospitals. The money thus received from the private hospitals would be used in setting up the infrastructure. For instance, if we need another fridge to store plasma, we can use this money.”
The plasma is separated from blood by using centrifuge machine. The government had earlier fixed the charges for Covid patients in private hospitals from Rs 10,000 per day to Rs 18,000 per day.
Soni, who had inaugurated the first plasma bank in Patiala last week, said, “We are yet to take a decision.”
When told about the announcement by the department, Soni said, “I am not aware. But I was told that every unit of plasma costs us
Rs 18,000-19,000. Hence, we will be charging private hospitals Rs 20,000. There is no profit-making. The entire process of separating blood, machinery and everything else costs us heavily.”
Soni said the government was not charging any money from patients getting plasma in the government hospitals. “We are giving it free of cost to them,” he said.
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