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WHY are tests for Covid-19 screening pricey, and cost an arm and a leg at private hospitals?

There are two tests – one is the Antigen Rapid Test kit (RTK-Ag) and the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), better known as swab tests.

The RTK-Ag tests identify the antibodies formed in response to the presence of the Covid-19 virus. The test delivers quicker results than the RT-PCR.

The RT-PCR swab tests identify the gene of the coronavirus and take a longer time to identify but are more accurate than the RTK-Ag.

Our public healthcare system, which provides free testing for all citizens, mostly uses swab tests but the only catch is that testing is conducted on those showing symptoms and who are close contacts of confirmed patients. The rest are at the mercy of the private healthcare system.

The RTK-Ag test can cost anywhere from RM50 to RM350 while the RT-PCR test ranges from RM100 to RM580 at a private hospital.

Why do private hospitals charge such exorbitant rates and why are their costs not fixed but vary from one private hospital to another?

These hospitals need to be more caring and considerate in the way they charge patients.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a global economic collapse, and many are losing jobs and incomes. Hopefully private hospitals will lower the fees so that more people are able to get their screening done at the private hospitals.

The government should step in and set a ceiling price for Covid-19 test screening.

And this will go a long way towards easing the over-burdened public healthcare system, which is bogged down with treating infections.

When more people can be tested at private hospitals at affordable charges, people will worry less and be better informed of their health status.

Now, the thought of going for a screening test at a private hospital can make one “sick” and “broke”.

Samuel Yesuiah