Private labs begin free Covid-19 tests after SC order, but explore options
Sector leaders say they have unanimously decided to conduct free tests after the interim order on Wednesday, but maintain that will not be financially viable for them.Updated: Apr 09, 2020 15:03 IST
Private laboratories, which have been asked to conduct Covid-19 tests for free, say they have started following the Supreme Court order while also exploring legal options.
Sector leaders say they have unanimously decided to conduct free tests after the interim order on Wednesday, but maintain that will not be financially viable for them. They say they are collaborating with each other constantly to formulate an action plan.
The top court has made tests for the coronavirus disease in government and private laboratories free, and asked the government to pass the necessary orders so as to make this possible. The tests are already free in government laboratories. Private laboratories used to charge Rs 4,500 for the currently used RT-PCR tests.
“Under the current circumstances, since it is a Supreme Court order, we are doing tests free for the time being. However, we are taking to our lawyers, and talking among ourselves, and even with the government to see what can be the way out,” says Arvind Lal, chairman and managing director of Dr Lal PathLabs, one of the private sector players allowed to carry out such tests.
There are 139 government laboratories and 65 private ones that currently authorised.
Navin Dang, founder of Dr Dangs Lab, a Delhi-based pathology lab that too has an approval, says, “There is a lot of confusion at the moment whether to charge or not; until the confusion clears out, I have given standing instructions to my staff not to charge anyone for Covid-19 testing.”
Zoya Brar, CORE Diagnsotics CEO, says private labs have unanimously decided that no one will charge for testing till things become clear.
Even corporate hospitals have decided to conduct the tests for free. “Since we have not heard anything from the government yet, we are not charging anything for Covid-19 testing,” said a spokesperson for Apollo hospital.
A lab owner, who did not want to be named, describes how leaders in the sector collaborated. “It was a mammoth collaborative wherein everyone in the industry came together for this cause...We have to find a way out otherwise many labs will collapse,” this person said.
Girdhar Gyani, Association of Healthcare Providers director general, proposes reimbursement to private labs by governments in case of free testing.
To be sure, the court, in its order, asked the government to explore a way to reimburse private laboratories, although it did not pass any order to this effect
“Since ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) handles testing and related matters, it would be appropriate to ask them about it,” said Preeti Sudan, the Union health secretary said on Wednesday.
ICMR director general of Balram Bhargava did not respond to calls and text messages despite repeated attempts.