Swine flu: Govt sets flu test price at Rs 4,500

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The Delhi Health department officials held a meeting with authorised private laboratories on Wednesday and a price limit of Rs 4,500 per H1N1 test was set. This comes a day after Newsline reported the high rates being charged by private laboratories for swine flu tests — some as high as Rs 10,000 per swine flu test.

Director of Health Services (Central Ministry) Dr Jagdish Prasad also wrote to Delhi health secretary S C L Das on Wednesday, directing the government to “ensure that there is no overcharging” by private laboratories.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain said, “After media reports, we have ensured that private labs are not allowed to charge more than Rs 4,500 per test. There is a procedure and let your doctor decide whether you should get tested or admitted. We have kept many private and Central government laboratories on standby. I want to request people to not panic.”

Health department authorities said they held a meeting with proprietors and microbiologists of private laboratories to understand the disparity in pricing. “We found that all labs were doing the same PCR test, so there is no reason for disparity. It was decided by mutual consent to keep Rs 4,500 as the sealing price. Labs that are charging Rs 3,500 or less will continue to charge the same,” Dr S K Sharma, Director, Health Services (Delhi), said.

Dr Sharma said labs would also be sent “strict guidelines” on who should be tested. “We should not make a business out of panic. Labs will be sent guidelines to ensure only Category C patients — those who have warning symptoms like difficulty in breathing and no comorbid conditions and who are referred by a hospital —- are tested,” he said.

For patients in Category B — children, the elderly or those with pre-existing diseases like diabetes and cancer — the Health department has directed that they be given Tamiflu directly without testing.

After complaints of test results being delayed at government laboratories emerged, the Health department directed the labs at AIIMS and Vallabhai Patel Chest Institute to also test samples from other government hospitals.

Dr Prasad, in his letter to the Delhi health secretary, said that the three identified government laboratories “have adequate capacity” to do H1N1 tests free of cost.

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