Although widespread testing to detect and isolate COVID-19 patients is crucial to combat the transmission of the disease, high testing cost at private hospitals has become a burden for many who are being forced to go there to get tested due to huge pressure at government hospitals.
Giving a reminder over the state’s responsibility to ensure proper healthcare of all citizens during the pandemic, experts said the government should bear costs of coronavirus tests at all hospitals including the private ones.
Amid a continuous surge in the number of Covid-19 patients, people with suspected symptoms are now counting around TK 4,000 for getting tested at private hospitals - though the service is totally free at the government hospitals designated for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, or the labs set up around the country under the government.
Long queues of service seekers and some additional hassles at government hospitals are forcing many to go to the private hospitals but the huge financial burden effectively deprives the low and middle-income people of their access to medical facilities.
Talking to UNB over the issue, Dr Rashid-E Mahbub, former president of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) and convener of Doctors’ Platform for People’s Health, said it is the government’s responsibility to protect people when an epidemic appears.
The government hospitals are providing free coronavirus testing facilities to people. “Now they should bear coronavirus testing costs at private hospitals too,” he added.
He also noted that testing a sample costs around TK 3,000, which is too steep for a private hospital to bear.
Rahman, a resident of Malibagh area, developed symptoms similar to that of coronavirus in recent days and got himself tested at Anwer Khan Modern Hospital in the capital at a cost of Tk 4,000.
“It’s very difficult for middle-class people to bear such an amount for coronavirus test. I went to the private hospital due to long queues of test aspirants at the government hospitals,” Rahman told UNB.
He further said it will be beneficial for the poor and middle-class people if government makes arrangement for free coronavirus testing at private hospitals too.
Shahana Khatun, another resident of the capital who recently recovered from the infection along with three of her family members, said, “Cost of Covid-19 test must be reduced at private hospitals during this crisis period. The government should find out a mechanism so that people could get tested even in private hospitals free of cost or at low cost.”
“If three members of a family get infected they will have to spend Tk 12000 only for tests. It is a huge burden and steps need to be taken immediately in this regard,” she said.
Regarding the issue, convener of Jonosastho Songram Parishad Dr Faiezul Hakim said coronavirus testing should be free of cost in all hospitals.
“Our organisation has been demanding free test and treatment of coronavirus for all. It’s responsibility of the government to ensure proper treatment to all citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
He also said that there should not be two separate policies in a country. “The government must take financial responsibility of coronavirus testing at all hospitals.”
Contacted, Habibur Rahman, additional secretary and convener of Health Ministry’s media cell, said the coronavirus test (which costs around Tk 4,000) is now free at all government hospitals.
Asked whether there is any plan to bear the costs at private hospitals too, Habibur said they are yet to know about any such plan. “Those who can’t afford costs at private hospitals should get tested at the government hospitals,” he added.
The additional secretary also revealed that the authorities allowed 14 private hospitals to conduct coronavirus tests considering the excessive pressure of suspected Covid-19 patients at government hospitals.
The test charge was determined at Tk 3,500 and it will be another TK 1,000 if samples are collected from home, he added.
The private hospitals that are rendering coronavirus testing facilities are - Evercare Hospital, Square Hospitals, Praava Health Bangladesh Ltd, Ibn Sina Medical College Hospital, Anwar Khan Modern Medical College Hospital, Enam Medical College and Hospital, United Hospital Limited, Biomed Diagnostics, DMFR Molecular Lab and Diagnostics, Lab Aid Hospital, Bangladesh Institute of Health Sciences General Hospital, Care Medical College of Dhaka, TMSS Medical College and Rafatullah Community Hospital of Bogura and Chevron Clinical Laboratory ( PTE ) Ltd. of Chattogram.
The health authorities on Saturday confirmed 3,240 new coronavirus cases across the country in a span of 24 hours, taking the total number to 108,775.
The death toll from the various rose to 1,425 as another 37 infected people lost their lives during the period.