Maharashtra: Patients refuse home testing as private labs send technicians geared up in PPE

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At least 22 private laboratories have been approved for testing across India. (Representational Photo)

PRIVATE LABORATORIES allowed to conduct home testing for coronavirus are facing a difficult time battling social stigma, low resources, along with patients refusing to pay for tests. Several patients, who booked appointments, refused to get tested after the laboratory technician came to their homes wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

"They thought if technicians were spotted in PPE, other residents will discriminate against them or ask them to vacate," said Arokiaswamy Velumani, managing director of Thyrocare, which was approved this week by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct COVID-19 tests. Thyrocare received 3,000 calls for testing, but after patients were told they have to pay Rs 4,500 for the test, only 30 agreed to get tested. Of them, 27 refused to get tested because the technician came to their house in protective gear. “Only three tests were done yesterday. Our first day was tough,” Velumani added.

At least 22 private laboratories have been approved for testing across India. In Mumbai, four labs have been allowed to collect home swabs for testing. Thyrocare, at present, has 1,000 PPEs in stock for its staff. A disposable PPE costs Rs 500 to Rs 600. The lab is purchasing it at 50 per cent extra cost. “We are paying Rs 1,100 per piece,” Velumani said.

In Mumbai Suburban laboratory, officials said a lot of patients are coming for testing without a doctor’s prescription. “We are not allowed to test people without prescription,” the official said.

The BMC has asked private laboratories to test only symptomatic patients with foreign travel history, close contacts of confirmed cases, symptomatic health workers and people suffering from severe acute respiratory syndrome. The labs are not allowed to test general population without a doctor’s prescription for COVID-19 testing.

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