Hospitals cannot charge patients more than Rs600 for the two essential tests that help detect and confirm dengue in its initial stages.
September saw nearly 300 confirmed cases of dengue in Mumbai; across the state, hospitals have reported a rise in the number of cases. As patients rushed to get tested, state officials said they noticed many laboratories were charging between Rs900 and Rs1,500 for them. The government has now issued a blanket cap of Rs600 for the NS1 and MAC ELISA tests.
The NS1 test is usually administered on the day a patient reports fever. The test helps detect dengue before antibodies appear in the body. The MAC ELISA test is a more advanced one that doctors use to confirm dengue. A dengue case is confirmed only when both tests return positive.
The state officials said the government took the step to stop laboratories from overcharging.
“Seeing the monetary exploitation of poor patients by laboratories, state officials were thinking to control prices of NS1 ELISA and MAC ELISA tests,” reads government resolution released on September 28.
The decision comes days after other states such as Haryana and Delhi, both battling a huge number of dengue cases, issued a blanket cap on prices charged at private diagnostic laboratories.
Doctors in Delhi are also trying to find the cause of twin attacks - of chikungunya and dengue - where patients are showing symptoms of both mosquito-borne diseases. At least 20 people have died of such symptoms in the capital so far this year.
One private diagnostic laboratory in the city said they charge Rs800 for the rapid tests and Rs900 for the ELISE one, but like many other private labs in the state, welcomed the decision.
“We have already notified our branches about the decision and from Saturday morning onwards, we will charge Rs600 for both tests. Even practically, when the number of patients coming for tests is high, I don’t think the decision is unfair or will affect profits,” said Dr Nilesh Shah, the president of Science and Innovation, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.
Most city labs HT spoke to said it was their moral responsibility to assist patients in the time of need. The laboratory lobby in Delhi, however, had opposed their government’s decision, calling it unfair.
According to the instructions of the treating manual for vector borne diseases, the cells at city and district level are recording cases only tested positive by NS1 ELISA test. State officials have now reiterated the decision by giving clear instructions to not use IgM or IgG antigen tests, used as rapid testing tool to diagnose dengue.