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Rupee slide may inject price rise in healthcare sector

The continuous fall in the value of the rupee against the dollar has had a direct impact on the cost of medical equipment and medicines in the country.

lucknow Updated: Oct 04, 2013 09:44 IST
Gaurav Saigal
Gaurav Saigal
Hindustan Times

Your health bills might burn a larger hole in your pockets in the coming days, specially if you go to a private hospital.

The continuous fall in the value of the rupee against the dollar has had a direct impact on the cost of medical equipment and medicines in the country.

As most of the equipment is imported, expenses for all medical treatments will go up.

“Imported medical equipment is purchased against the dollar and if the dollar goes up, the equipment becomes costlier. To cite an example, the fully automatic biochemistry analyser that we use comes from Korea for around Rs 7 lakh. It will now cost around 30% more,” said spokesperson of the Lucknow Association of Practicing Pathologists and Microbiologists (LAPPM), Dr PK Gupta.

He said most of the reagents used to test blood samples would also become costly as they were imported. Therefore, those going in for a blood test or an ultrasound would have to pay Rs 20 to Rs 50 more.

The healthcare industry is totally dependent on imports of medical products such as CT scan, stents, surgical staples, balloons and a range of surgical instruments. Implants for knee, hip and wrist joint replacement are also imported.

Falling value of the rupee has resulted in spiralling costs of all such products, which will in turn push up the treatment cost up to 30% more.

“The component separator for blood units we ordered a year ago has become costlier by Rs 1 lakh. Similarly, the AMC of all equipment has become costly by Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh,” said managing director, Shekhar Hospital, Indira Nagar Richa Mishra.

“Things like embryo transfer catheter and all disposable items used in in-vitro fertilisation are imported. We purchase them on a quarterly basis.

Our supplier has already intimated that this time the expense will go up by roughly 20%,” said Dr Vijay Shree, of Vijay Shree Hospital and Test Tube Baby Centre.

Not just the price but also the maintenance cost of the equipment will go up from January 2014. This is because spare parts used in these machines are also imported.

Hence the firm putting up tender for annual maintenance contract (AMC) will charge more on repair.

“As far as spare parts or reagents are concerned, we can never buy them in advance and stock them as food grains. As we do not know which spare part will be needed, we buy them on a demand basis. Thus hospitals have no choice but to buy the products at any cost as and when needed,” said Dr BS Bansal of RG Stone Hospital.

Doctors say corporate laboratories have already decided to increase their rates for diagnosis while cost of operations and treatment in other local labs will see a rise in a few weeks.

There are Indian companies too which manufacture medical equipment but they fail to match the quality, so most hospitals are dependent on imports of medical equipment.

First Published: Oct 04, 2013 09:33 IST