June 23, 2020 1:43:46 am
Days after the Ministry of Home Affairs capped charges of RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 at Rs 2,400 in Delhi, several top private labs have stopped home collection of samples. The move could impact the number of RT-PCR tests being performed in the city and add to the hassles of people who don’t want to or are unable to visit collection centres. The test used to earlier cost Rs 4,500.
At present, Delhi carries out 20,247 tests per million population.
On Monday, The Indian Express spoke to several private labs who confirmed they are no longer taking samples from home. “Lifting a sample from a patient’s home requires a separate PPE kit, gown, goggles, mask, gloves, vial transport medium, etc. All this is spent on a single person who is risking his life to attend to a suspected patient, but the rates fixed by the government are not at all cost-effective. We have completely stopped home collection services and are requesting patients to visit the collection centre,” said a private lab owner, who did not wish to be named.
A representative from a private hospital in Delhi said the lab is only testing samples sent by the government.
The MHA capped rates on June 17 based on a report by a committee headed by NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, which has also fixed treatment charges at private hospitals.
An order by the state health department on June 18 stated, “The rates of Covid RT-PCR test in Delhi has been fixed at Rs 2,400 per test inclusive of GST/taxes, if any, cost involved in picking up and transportation of samples, documentation and reporting, with immediate effect.”
Earlier, as per the rates set by the government, private labs would be paid Rs 4,500 if they collected the sample using their own kits; Rs 3,500 if the government collected the samples and the private labs used their kits to test it; and Rs 2,200 if the government collected the sample and provided the test kit as well.
On May 25, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had removed the price cap for Covid-19 tests and wrote to all state governments to fix the costs after consulting stakeholders for RT-PCR testing. In Maharashtra, the government has set different rates — Rs 2,200 for swabs collected and sent to the lab, Rs 2,500 if patient goes to the lab and Rs 2,800 for home collection.
“The revised charges of Rs 2,400 are inclusive of everything. What will we pay our staff who go to collect the samples? We pay Rs 700-800 to the staffer who visits houses… The government should give us some leeway for home collection services. It’s no longer feasible for us. We are waiting if slabs will be followed in Delhi like in Maharashtra,” said another private lab owner in the city.
At present, 42 labs are authorised to perform RT-PCR tests in the city. To enhance testing capacity, the city’s 11 districts have each been assigned labs for exclusively testing samples to ensure timely testing and getting results without delay.
The city has also received a go-ahead from the Centre to start rapid antigen testing.
Till June 22, a total of 3,84,696 tests had been carried out.
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