Kerala High Court refuses to stay the slashing of RT-PCR test charges

RT-PCR Covid-19 tests at Kottamaidan in Palakkad. File   | Photo Credit: MUSTAFAH KK

The Kerala High Court on Friday declined to stay the government order reducing the charge of RT-PCR test to ₹500 from ₹1700.

Justice N. Nagaresh observed that prima facie it appeared that the government had arrived at the rate of RT-PCR test after conducting a market survey and study conducted through the Kerala Medical Services Corporation limited (KMSCL).

The court said that it was discernible from the statement filed by the government that cost of RT-PCR test, including swab collection would come to ₹135-240 only. In fact, the charges in many of the other States in the country including Haryana, Telangana, and Uttarakhand were within the same range as that of the price fixed by the government. Therefore, the court did not find any reason to pass an interim order, the court added.

The court also declined the plea of the laboratory owners to restrain the government from taking no coercive steps be taken against labs who are not following the government order.

When the petitions filed by a group of private diagnostic laboratories challenging the government order came up for hearing, Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan submitted that while going through the cost per test for RT-PCR through private laboratories in other States with similar or lesser caseload, it was found that the rates in Haryana, Telangana, Uttarakhand were Rs 500 each and it was Rs 400 in Odisha.

The government had reduced the charges to ₹500 per test in the private labs, taking into consideration the rates in other States. There were also complaints that the test charges in the State were highest in the country. In fact, in the month of March and April 2020, the cost of these kits was high due to the limited number of suppliers and transportation issues during the lockdown period. But gradually the situation had improved and more manufactures started producing the kits for the test. Different types of tests were approved by ICMR and as a result, the rates for the test came down.

He submitted that a majority of the accredited labs in the State including the one which had branches throughout the State had accepted the rate fixed by the government. In fact, only a few laboratories (ten in number) were challenging the government order.

He also added that as per ICMR directive, the rates for the Covid-19 test by private labs should be finalised by the States. Accordingly, State Government had fixed a rate and reduced it gradually after doing a thorough market analysis through its procurement agency KMSCL.

The laboratory owners argued that the average cost for conducting an RT-PCR test came to ₹1,500. The revision of the charges would detrimentally affect the quality of the tests.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 12:09:42 PM |

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