Covid-19 PCR testing: Pvt. hospitals contradict Health Ministry

By Agra Ranasinghe

Private hospitals last week stated they were not conducting Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing despite the Ministry of Health claiming that many private hospitals were currently conducting this test.

These claims come three weeks after Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Anil Jasinghe announced that private hospitals would be authorised to carry out the PCR blood test after introducing a price control.

In a press release on 3 March, the Association of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes (APHNH) said that to date, Covid-19 PCR testing had not been carried out by any of the member hospitals of the association as an outpatient department (OPD) test, despite the instructions given by the Ministry of Health.

The APHNH said it was of the view that such a test should be done as an outpatient (OP) service under stringent quality guidelines since private hospitals were not permitted to admit Covid-19 suspected patients.

However, when contacted, Ministry of Health Consultant Community Physician Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told The Sunday Morning that many private hospitals were carrying out the PCR test at present.

He added that private hospitals had been given permission to carry out PCR testing, but only under some conditions that have been mentioned in the circular given by the Ministry of Health.

The conditions require private hospitals to conduct the test by admitting the patients first, providing the result within 24 hours, and charging a maximum of Rs. 6,000 for the test.

Addressing a press conference held at the Government Information Department Auditorium in Colombo, on 13 March, Dr. Jasinghe announced that permission would be given by the Ministry to the private sector to carry out PCR testing.