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In a first in the country, Karnataka has brought down the cost of testing COVID-19 samples from Rs. 4,500 (fixed by the Indian Council of Medical Research) to Rs. 2,250 per sample

Karnataka caps COVID-19 sample test at Rs 2,500

In a first in the country, Karnataka has brought down the cost of testing COVID-19 samples from Rs. 4,500 (fixed by the Indian Council of Medical Research) to Rs. 2,250 per sample. A government order to this effect was issued on Friday. But private labs say they were in the dark about this and that this order comes as a shock to them. However, the reduction in testing price is not valid for all but for only to the samples sent by the government in case of government labs being burdened with a lot. A regular patient still walking into these labs with a prescription still has to pay Rs 4,500 per COVID-19 test.

“There is an urgent need to bring in more and more private laboratories for testing the samples. Meetings and negotiations were held with some private laboratories for conducting COVID-19 sample testing. Based on the discussions and negotiations, the cost per test has been fixed at Rs. 2,250. This includes the screening test and a confirmatory test. The state government will not provide any of the testing kits and other accessories required for testing,” said an order from Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Karnataka.

Cancyte Technologies Private Limited is one of the five private labs approved for COVID-19 testing by ICMR in Karnataka. Dr. KN Sridhar, founder and Managing Director of Cancyte, Basavanagudi, told DH, “We will comply with the order since it is necessary. But it is not true that there were negotiations and discussions held with private laboratories to arrive at this cost. Nothing is surprising with this government anymore.”

Apollo Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, is another facility approved for COVID-19 testing in Karnataka. Dr Sahana Govindaiah, medical superintendent, Apollo Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, has two problems. One, it was kept in the dark about the price reduction and two, it is awaiting testing kits from the government when the order clearly states that the state government will not provide any testing kits to the private labs.

“We got this order this morning and we were surprised because we weren’t part of any discussions or negotiations. Second, the order says that the state government will not provide any testing kit but we have been waiting for these kits from the government. We don’t have a real-time PCR machine, we have a GeneXpert machine which is used for testing TB. We were told when the government centres get cartridges from the Centre, we will get it too, but the order contradicts that,” Govindaiah said.

Dr Kalpaja DA, Director, Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences refused to comment. Dr Sujay Prasad, Medical Director, Neuberg Anand, “We’re doing it free of cost. But the rationale of arriving at Rs. 2,250 is subjective. Vydehi said its test kit costs Rs. 2,000. But they didn’t take into account the cost of PPEs and other overheads. At the same time, Sakra said it costs them anywhere between Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 3,000. Out of the four labs who charge, two came and two did not. The labs did not know the prices would be discussed. They did not have permissions from their management to convey a price.”

Sakra Hospital has not started testing COVID-19 samples so far. Dr Deepak Balani, Chief of Medical Services, Sakra Hospital said, “Neuberg, Vydehi and Sakra were present in this meeting with the health department. Neuberg is already offering tests for free. Despite the individual quotations given by Vydehi and Sakra, the government went ahead and fixed Rs. 2,250. They’re assuming that we’re running at full capacity. We haven’t even started testing.

Getting any test kits on our own is difficult. World over, there is a clamour for kits. I have 100 kits and will test as long as they last. The government order states that they are not going to give us test kits but we cannot test without their help in getting the kits.”

Neuberg Anand in Shivajinagar is already providing sample testing free of cost with the help of some charitable organisations. It has tested approximately 1,200 samples so far.

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