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COVID-19 : SC Asks If Govt Can Reimburse Charges Levied By Private Labs For Testing

Nilashish Chaudhary
8 April 2020 10:20 AM GMT
COVID-19 : SC Asks If Govt Can Reimburse Charges Levied By Private Labs For Testing
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Hearing a plea seeking directions to make COVID-19 testing free across the country, the Supreme Court asked the government if they could devise a mechanism through which the charges levied by private laboratories could be reimbursed to people. The Bench, comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra Bhat, further observed that these labs should not be allowed to charge a...

Hearing a plea seeking directions to make COVID-19 testing free across the country, the Supreme Court asked the government if they could devise a mechanism through which the charges levied by private laboratories could be reimbursed to people.

The Bench, comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Ravindra Bhat, further observed that these labs should not be allowed to charge a high amount.

Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, through his petition, argued in for the urgent need to ramp up testing facilities of COVID-19 in light of the "escalating mortality" and "morbidity rate" across the country. Sudhi also challenged the advisory issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on March 17, 2020, which has fixed the price of testing and screening kits of the deadly virus at Rs. 4500 in private labs and hospitals, as unreasonable, discriminatory and antithetical to Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution.

Responding to the PIL on behalf of the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta explained that only 118 laboratories were conducting COVID-19 tests, to their maximum capacity of 15,000 tests per day. Given the dynamic situation, and need for more tests to be conducted, 47 private labs were roped in. "We do not know how many more labs will be needed, Milords. We can't say how long the lockdown will continue", Mehta added further to stress on the nature of uncertainty surrounding the situation.

At this juncture Justice Ashok Bhushan suggested that the government could try creating a reimbursement mechanism for these tests. The Solicitor assured that he would take instructions regarding the same.

In his petition, Sudhi has emphasized on the need for a "guarantee of legitimacy" in order to carry out tests, which if left unchecked, may be fatal. Apropos this, it is urged that the Centre must ensure the tests be carried out in NABAL or ICMR accredited/registered pathological labs/diagnostic centers.

It has also been prayed that all hospitals must ensure adequate facilities, non-shortage of ventilators and daily briefings to keep citizens abreast of important and useful information which must be telecast on TV channels daily.

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