The Gujarat government has decided to cap the rate of Covid-19 testing in private laboratories in the state at Rs 3,000, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel announced on Thursday. While government laboratories test free of cost, private labs used to charge Rs 4,500 for a Covid-19 test.
According to Patel, who also holds the Health portfolio, private laboratories have been testing an average of 500 people per day. The decision to slash the rates came after a chief ministerial level meeting on Wednesday.
Addressing the media, Patel said, “Private laboratories and hospitals charge around Rs 4,500 for Covid-19 test…There is a petition at the Gujarat High Court that is ongoing on various issues… During this, the health department and the state government felt that the testing rate of Rs 4,500 in private laboratories needs to be reduced… It was decided by the health department that the private laboratories can charge Rs 2,500 if a person visits the lab to get tested and if a person is tested at their residence or at a hospital (by the private laboratories) where a lab employee has to be called for testing, then the laboratory can charge Rs 3,000.”
Adding that the decision was taken by the state government “core group”, Patel said, “This will be effective from today (Thursday). If any lab is found charging more than what has now been decided, their approval will be cancelled. If we receive any complaint of overcharging and the same is proven, the approval for the lab will be revoked with immediate effect.”
Subsequently, a circular from the office of additional director in health department, Dr Prakash Vaghela, was circulated on Thursday, stating that the two rate slabs are the maximum that can be charged. The circular, however, did not specify any punitive actions, in case of non-compliance.
“On an average, 500 people get tested daily in private laboratories,” added Patel.
According to the deputy chief minister, state-run hospitals and medical colleges with RT-PCR testing laboratory facilities test on an average of 4,000 to 4,500 samples in a day. However, Patel also said that the state has a capacity of testing up to 6,000 to 6,500 samples per day. Patel also assured that there are sufficient testing kits available in the state.
After a brief spike in testing samples where on June 17 the state tested more than 7,000 samples, the number of samples tested each day has gone down. The test positivity rate has seen a marginal increase to 8.5 per cent from last week’s 8.2 per cent across the state.
On two days — June 22 and 23 — fewer than 5,000 samples were taken while on June 24, 5,700 samples were taken, much lower than the state’s testing capacity. Of the 24 days this month, the number of samples tested exceeded 6,000 only on five days. Till Thursday, 3,45,170 samples were taken across the state.
In the last week of May, ICMR had revoked the price cap of Rs 4,500 and had further written to state chief secretaries, suggesting a renegotiation of RT-PCR test prices with private labs, on the ground that the kits cost much lower than the earlier capped price, owing to indigenous manufacturing of the kits.
However, proprietor of an Ahmedabad-based lab that uses imported kits said the price cap will be applicable for them as well.
Several states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and New Delhi, had capped their testing prices earlier this month, following which Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA) had rallied for similar price capping in Gujarat.
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