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Test costs very high, patients toe Govt line

delhi Updated: Aug 10, 2009 01:16 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times
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Tanvi Bhargav, a lecturer with a Delhi University college, was waiting for private laboratories to get a nod from the government to conduct tests for swine flu or influenza A (H1N1).

Her daughter Arushi (5) is suffering from flu-like symptoms for the last one week, but she did not take her to a government hospital for a screening test.

She feared that her little daughter might get the virus in the huge crowd if she was not already suffering from it. In the last couple of days, she has been forced to rethink her decision.

She is now contemplating taking her daughter to a government health facility. The reason is the exorbitant cost of conducting a single test.

Since the Union government made the cost of conducting swine flu tests public, free screenings at government centres is suddenly appearing to be attractive not only to Bhargav, but also many people like her.

Every positive test for swine flu costs the government Rs 10,000 and every negative test costs Rs 5,000.

In a government health facility, the test is conducted absolutely free. But if a person wishes to conduct the same test at a private lab, the cost will be 30 to 50 per cent higher.

The person is likely to end up paying anything between Rs 13,000 and Rs 15,000 in a private laboratory.

Even private hospitals and labs, which initially were excited about the idea of getting to conduct tests for the flu, now seem to be considering the cost effectiveness of setting up the diagnostic facilities.

Private hospitals like Apollo have shown lukewarm response to the idea.

“We’ll follow government orders. If they identify us as one of the labs, only then shall we participate,” said the hospital.

To set up a new lab that meets the requirements for conducting swine flu test will cost no less than Rs 4 crore.

“If we are investing so much, we'd obviously not want to incur losses. And clearly not many people will be able to afford the expensive test,” said the owner of one of the prominent labs in the city.

“But we should not stop those who are already running government-accredited labs in the city, as for them running costs won't be that high. And those who want to go to a private lab, they will have an option even if it is 15 out of 100 people,” said Dr Navin Dang, who runs Dr Dang's lab at Hauz Khas.