Kerala HC endorses Covid test fee reduction; pulls up private hospitalstext_fields
Kochi: Kerala High Court on Tuesday endorsed the decision of Kerala government to reduce the charge for RT-PCR test, used for detecting corona virus infection.
In a crucial case benefiting thousands of patients and people desirous of testing their Covid status, the High Court was considering a plea by owners of private laboratories against the recent Kerala government decision to slash the testing fee of Rs 1700 charged by most private labs. Rs 1700 had become the norm after the state government raised it from the lower rates earlier, in response to a request by private labs citing the high costs involved in the testing process.
However, due to more recent slashing of the price of testing kit and other related items, the government submitted, private labs could conduct tests at a cost of below Rs 240 and so a fee of Rs 500 was quite reasonable.
The bench saw merit in the government's argument, and instead of granting the private labs' plea, complimented government for having taken the welcome step. The court further said, it was within the powers of the government to fix rates based on the costs of testing. The lab owners had argued that reducing testing fee would affect the quality of testing, and since it would cause financial burden to the labs, the government should either withdraw the order or grand subsidies.
The court also opined that RT-PCR test could also be included in the ambit of the Kerala Essential Services Maintenance Act and the government could take an appropriate decision in this matter.
Earlier, Youth Congress leaders Shafi Parambil and KS Sabarinathan had also approached the court seeking orders to the government to repeal the earlier order allowing private labs to charge Rs 1700 per RT-PCR test.
HC pulls up private hospitals fleecing Covid patients
In a related case, the High Court on Tuesday also lashed out against the exploitative charging of patients in the treatment of Covid.
The court said that under the cover of the badly needed Covid treatment, the private hospitals were flouting government orders, and called on the government to formulate policies in phases.
The bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran was considering a petition seeking to unify the Covid treatment rates in the state. The bench observed that there was a spate of complaints against the charges levied by private hospitals for Covid treatment under different heads.
The court cited an example of charging for two PPE kits for the same patient for each day, whereas in a ward of 50 patients, the health workers were wearing the same kit for a full day. The court wondered why then they should charge for the kit from each patient.
The First Line Treatment Centres (FLTC) of private hospitals were found to be charging from Rs 10,000 to 20,000 for treatment, the court said, adding that it was withholding the names of such hospitals for the time being, but cautioned that this is creating a serious situation which the government should examine.
When ordinary people find beds not available in government hospitals, they are forced to approach private hospitals and exploiting this situation is totally unacceptable. Therefore, a policy formation at government level is essential.
The court adjourned this matter alone for review on Friday.