India is Hoping for cheaper medical tests

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KOLKATA: After the fair price-medicine shops, the Mamata Banerjee government is set to introduce fair-price pathological laboratories in state-run hospitals. If operated successfully like the medicine shops, this scheme is expected to be of huge help to patients undergoing treatment in the government hospitals.

Once operational, getting a pathological test done at government hospitals would not only become cheaper but also faster. From common blood test to more complex ones and urine examination to stool analysis and sputum test, the government is set to reach out to the common people offering these services at half the price private laboratories charge for the tests.

“These laboratories will be run on public-private-partnership model. The state health department will select private partners who can offer the lowest rates,” said a Swasthaya Bhawan source.

Fair-price medicine shops flagged off in several hospitals offer generic medicine at price that is as low as 70% of the market rates. The first one was set up at SSKM Hospital. One can find serpentine queues in front of these shops at anytime of the day.

“The discount offered at the fair-price medicine shops is a huge relief for people like us. I am sure the proposed fair-price pathological laboratories will prove to be a boon for families like me,” said Sukanta Mandal of Kakdwip whose relative is undergoing treatment at SSKM Hospital.

The government, however, is yet to decide on the rates for the tests. But, the target is to select a private partner who can offer the best discount. The health department hopes to make such services available at a cost that is at least 70% lower than the market rate. There is also a proposal to make the service available free of cost to certain sections of patients specially those who hold the BPL cards.

“The aim is to make quality healthcare services more accessible and affordable for the poor,” said Dr BR Satpathy, director medical health services.

Sources said that these services would first be set up at six medical colleges in the city. Then it will be introduced in the district hospitals in phases

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