The Delhi Health department on Saturday issued showcause notices to two private labs in Yusuf Sarai and Hari Nagar, for allegedly charging more than the specified limit of Rs 4,500 fixed by it for swine flu tests earlier this week. Both labs, which were identified during surprise checks by officials on Friday night, are not in the list of labs authorised for conducting the H1N1 tests.
This came even as the Director General of Health Services, Dr Jagdish Prasad, wrote to the Delhi government and authorities of other states on Friday, directing them to further put a cap of Rs 2,500 for H1N1 tests in private labs.
Officials said a health department team, including an additional director and a nodal officer from the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) conducted the checks after directions from Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Friday night.
“The defaulters have been asked to explain why their licences should not be cancelled for failing to comply with the specified norms. These labs have not been authorised by the Delhi government for conducting H1N1 tests,” Jain said.
Jain said the surprise checks were conducted after media reports emerged that some private labs were continuing to overcharge for the tests.
The team also conducted checks on two other labs authorised to conduct swine flu tests in South Delhi and found they were complying with the new rates.
Jain also said people should try to get tests done in government hospitals. “There is sufficient stock of medicines in government hospitals and approved chemist shops. People should try and get their tests done free of cost in government hospitals. There is no cause for panic,” Jain said.
Also, for the first time since the pandemic in 2009, the Union Health ministry and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have issued guidelines for vaccination of healthcare workers managing swine flu patients. The Ministry on Friday had said it was procuring 2,000 swine flu vaccines for the workers.
“The Delhi government has initiated purchase for the first lot of vaccines. However, immunity can take up to 2-3 weeks to develop after vaccination. We were awaiting directions from the Union Health Ministry since concerns were expressed about a mutation in the strain of the virus. This could make the existing vaccines ineffective,” a senior official explained.
However, sources said the Union Health ministry had consulted the National Institute of Virology in Pune and clarified that there is no “significant” mutation in the H1N1 strain this year.
A team of experts from ICMR has also been asked to study patterns in mortality such as which areas, age groups and section of people have been most affected. The team has also been asked to study deaths due to co-morbid conditions in all the states by collecting random samples.