Covid test lab employees fleecing Ranchi residents
Employees of private and government labs in Ranchi are charging exorbitant rates for Covid tests amid an unprecedented spike in cases and long queues at government-run swab collection centres.
As more residents are opting for home collection of swab samples, labs are charging as much as Rs1,000 for rapid tests and up to Rs1500 for RT PCR, some city residents have alleged while sharing their experience with The Telegraph Online.
A few local residents, who underwent Covid tests recently, also alleged that some staff members working with Covid testing labs asked for extra money in exchange for reports before the waiting period, which is usually five to six days.
“Last week, I paid Rs 3,000 to a person who works with RIMS for rapid antigen tests of me, my wife and our domestic help. The government’s cap on the price of Covid tests is only in pen and paper as cases are soaring and people fear moving out of their home even for Covid tests,” said Pradeep Kumar, a resident of Morhabadi, who recently recovered from Covid.
“People don't mind paying extra if that spares them the hassle of lining up outside a testing centre and waiting for days to get the report,” he added.
In December last year, the Jharkhand government capped rapid tests at Rs 150 and RT PCR tests at Rs 800 only. The higher rates charged by some sample collection staff was a violation of the government's guidelines.
“If someone takes the pain of going to your house and collecting swab samples, then he deserves some extra payment especially during such testing times,” said a collection staffer working with a private lab in Ranchi. “The test reports will come in the next five to six days, but we can manage something if you need the reports sooner,” he added.
The collection staffer, who also collects swab samples for government facilities, said the additional charge for the test was justified as some government-run swab collection centres were unable to provide test results even after weeks.
“There is no fixed rate. It depends on the situation and the demand on a given day. The price can be anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500. But I can say for sure that no lab will collect swab samples from your home the day you request a test. It usually takes more than 24 hours,” the collection staffer said.
Ranchi is faced with the worst ever wave of Covid-19. The death toll in the city breached the 1000-mark on Tuesday, while the active caseload hovers around 20,000.