Price cap could affect medical products’ quality: IMA

The government’s bid to regulate the treatment cost of COVID-19 in the private sector by fixing a price cap on essential consumables required in COVID-19 care, such as N95 masks, PPE kits or surgical gowns/gloves, could backfire if the quality of the consumables is not ensured, representatives of various private health sector organisations have said.

The Indian Medical Association has already written to the Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister that while they are not against the government fixing fair price norms, there cannot be any compromise on the quality of these items.

“Protective gear worn by healthcare workers have to meet the highest quality norms or else they will not be able to work confidently in COVID wards. The government has the right to bring in price control but can they assure the quality at this price,” State secretary of IMA P. Gopikumar said.

What the order says

The government had on Friday issued orders, capping the prices of essential consumables such as PPE kits, surgical gowns/aprons/gloves and items like hand sanitizer and pulse oximeter and bringing these under the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act 1986. However, representatives of private health sector point out that the distributors of medical supplies are not prepared to supply these consumables at these rates.

The Qualified Private Medical Practitioners and Hospital Association (QPMPA), in a letter to the government, said that the MRP of the items were above the rates fixed by the government and distributors were not taking orders from hospitals now, claiming that the items were out of stock. The private health sector is thus apprehensive that there could be issues in the supply of these items soon.

‘Specify quality’

The government should specify the minimum quality indices for the consumables, in consultation with experts, or else vendors could be pushing low quality products, the QPMPA said.

Both IMA and QPMPA have proposed that the government procure medical consumables in bulk through KMSCL and supply them to private hospitals. “The government should have given a fair price range rather than fix just one price. It should also place in public domain the framework for this pricing plan,” says Shibu Vijayan, Global TB Technical Director, PATH.

‘Valid concerns’

Having worked in the State earlier promoting the engagement of private sector in State TB control programmes, he feels that while a price auditing is called for, a policing approach will only make the private sector withdraw from the scene.

“The concern raised by the private health sector whether the capped prices will match quality standards is genuine. The government should step in to avoid an imminent supply shortage,” Dr. Vijayan says.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 7:31:35 PM |

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