Clinics, labs profit from H1N1 panic

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With the state government struggling to break the chain of transmission of A(H1N1) virus, private players seem to be jumping in the fray to make a quick buck at the expense of panicked people.

Private laboratories have started offering dubious H1N1 tests and fleecing patients who would rather pay for their test than visit an overcrowded government facility.

“Private labs and clinics offer a ‘card’ swine flu test that is unreliable. It is infamous for showing false positives and false negative results and both can be dangerous for a patient. The test costs only around Rs 300, but patients are charged from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 for this questionable test,” said Dr V. S. Vijay, Tamil Nadu health minister.

“There is only one test that can be relied upon. It is called the RTPCR test and it is available only in select centers as it involves expensive equipment. Apart from the King Institute in Guindy and Rajiv Gandhi Government General hospital, we have approved of 12 private laboratories to conduct testing,” he added.

However, the government has neither fixed a maximum price that a private laboratory can charge for such a test, nor put a monitoring system in place to crackdown on unscrupulous labs.

The RT-PCR throat swab test will be conducted for free at the King Institute as well as the teaching hospitals in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tirunelveli.

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