Major private laboratories in Mumbai are overcharging patients for testing blood samples for H1N1 infection, even though the Centre had, in February, asked labs not to charge more than Rs 4,500 for the test.
At present, laboratories in Mumbai are charging patients anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 to test for the virus that causes swine flu.
HT called several diagnostic laboratories in the city on Monday to determine the cost of these tests. The civic-run lab at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli charges Rs 2,500 for swine flu testing, while SRL Diagnostics, leading private laboratory charges Rs 5,500, not including home collection charges.
Dr BR Das, SRL Diagnostics, said, “We are only testing the samples of patients recommended for testing by doctors. The cost of the test depends on the kits and the logistic involved. We are not looking for profits.”
Another local laboratory said the test will cost Rs 7,000, as they will collect the samples and send it to the “bigger private laboratory”.
A senior state health official, said, “We had allowed private labs to offer swine flu testing so that competition brings down the cost. Also, these labs are not permitted to collect samples at home.”
According to the guidelines provided by the central health ministry, the samples should be collected in a hospital set-up.
Doctors suggest testing of samples only if the patient is in the high-risk category. This includes people with low immunity such as pregnant women, diabetics, people with hypertension, the elderly and children. A doctor treating swine flu patients, said, “We discourage testing as it does not affect the treatment but people insist, because they want to be sure.”
Civic officials said they have no control on private laboratories. “We have received several complaints about overcharging but there is nothing we can do,” said a senior official from the civic health department.