Jharkhand has decided to halve the cost of Covid-19 tests at private laboratories in a bid to ensure affordable testing across the state, officials said on Tuesday.
As per a notification issued by the Jharkhand Rural Health Mission Society, private entities registered to conduct Covid tests will charge up to Rs 2,400 from above poverty line patients and suspects for each test. The tests will, however, be free of cost for members of BPL families in accordance with a directive of the apex court, officials said.
Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which is so far the most efficient technique for testing Covid-19 infection, was being conducted at private laboratories in Jharkhand for Rs 4,500 till date.
Many political and apolitical organisations had raised concerns over the alleged exorbitant price charged for Covid tests in private laboratories and also written to the chief minister seeking a cut in the price earlier this month.
“ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) had suggested states to negotiate with private partners for lower rates. Fresh rates were called from private laboratories for the same. The minimum rate received for collection of sample and testing is Rs 2,400 per test,” the government notification, issued on Monday midnight said.
The price decided was inclusive of collection, transportation of samples, documentation and reporting, the government notification further stated.
The government granted permission to four private laboratories for conducting Covid-19 tests in Jharkhand on May 6. The four private laboratories – Dr Lal Pathlab, SRL Limited, Core Diagnostics and Path Kind Diagnostic Private Limited – were approved by the National Health Mission (NHM) for conducting the test as per the guidelines laid down by the ministry of health and family welfare.
"The private labs will report to the IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme) about all the tests that are conducted there. They have to abide by all the Covid-19 testing protocols of the Government of India," said state IDSP Director Rakesh Dayal.
A person willing to get himself or herself tested at these facilities will have to produce a medical certificate of a doctor, officials from NHM said. Besides, the said person will also have to get a form 44 and submit an identity proof issued by the government of India, they added.
The limited number of testing facilities proved to be a handicap when non-Covid-19 patients sought treatment at private hospitals, doctors' associations have said. While many private hospitals asked for Covid-19 test report as a prerequisite for treatment, none of them actually conducted the tests, sources said. Two pregnant women were denied treatment last month as they did not have Covid-19 test reports. The Jharkhand High Court took cognizance of these incidents and sought an explanation from the government.