With Rising H1N1 Cases in Mumbai, Need to Cap Test Costs: Report

As Mumbai saw an uptick in H1N1 (swine flu) cases in July, the demand for tests has increased and so has a need to regulate rates.

A single dose costs anywhere between 4,000-5,000 in Mumbai. This is an added burden on families where more than one family member needs to get tested, says a report by Times of India.

Officials in the city have raised the issue to regulate prices with the current state government but in the absence of a health minister, the matter hasn’t even gotten sanctioned for review.

“With limited public facilities offering the test in the city, there should be some move towards restricting the prices for H1N1,” a senior official who wished to remain anonymous told TOI.

H1N1 cases in India have seen a rise this year, with 105 infections so far, a nearly five fold increase since last year. Mumbai reported 66 cases this year, out of which 62 were reported in July itself.

However, doctors have warned that the official numbers don’t reflect reality due to limited testing as many public hospitals don’t offer tests and private hospitals charge high rates.

With similar flu-like symptoms, many people believe they have mild Covid-19 and don’t get tested for H1N1. Doctors have emphasised on the need to test for it if the Covid test is negative.

A state official said that when H1N1 emerged in 2009, tests cost Rs 5,000 but now that more facilities were offering it, the cost decreased. In 2015, when the country saw a surge in cases, the Director General of Health told states that tests shouldn’t be allowed to exceed Rs 2,500, but this hasn’t been the case.

Many labs claim that costs of reagents, kits and workforce don’t allow them to offer tests at lower prices. “The Covid test rates dropped from Rs 4,500 to Rs 500 as cost of reagents and other items was capped too,” the head of a laboratory told TOI. Dr Ulhas Vaidya of Vaidya Labs said that a rise in demand would pull down prices.

The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) announced free testing in July to detect swine flu cases but a doctor’s recommendation is needed for testing.

Katurba Hospital in the public sector is also offering free tests but only for patients with severe symptoms like breathlessness, hypotension and discolouration of nails.

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