The Kerala High Court has asked the state government and the Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSC) whether raw materials for RT-PCR tests can be provided to private labs in the state at a reasonable cost so that they can conduct the same for Rs 500, the rate fixed by the state. The query by the High Court came during the hearing of a plea by several private labs, challenging an April 30 order of the state government, slashing the rates for RT-PCR tests from Rs 1,700 to Rs 500.
In response to the query by Justice TR Ravi, KMSC said the suggestion to provide the raw materials at reasonable cost to the private labs can be considered. KMSC said it was set up to procure the raw materials for the government and not to supply the same to private institutions and to do so, a policy decision would be required. The state government's counsel also said that the suggestion would have to be considered and a decision has to be taken by the concerned departments.
"In the above circumstances, respondents 1 (state government) and 4 (KMSC) are directed to consider the above stated proposition and submit before the court about the possibility of the 4th respondent supplying the materials and the cost at which they will be able to do so..The petitioners (private labs) may submit a list of the materials that they would require for conducting the RT-PCR test to the 4th respondent and the approximate volumes that would be required so that the 4th respondent will also be able to arrive at a competitive price," the court said in its July 8 order.
During the hearing, the state government said it arrived at the figure of Rs 500 as the rates arrived at by KMSC or RT-PCR tests through static and mobile labs was Rs 448.20 per test. It also told the court that the cost of the kits and consumables for the purpose of carrying out the RT-PCR test have come down and that for similar tests the rates charged in states like Haryana, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Odisha were comparable with the price fixed by Kerala government.
The private labs, however, contended that rates arrived at by KMSC were not justified as it makes purchases for the state in bulk and therefore, can get the materials at a much lesser price than the institutions that do not procure the same in such large volumes.
Earlier, a single judge bench had declined to stay the April 30 order, against which the private labs had appealed before a division bench which dismissed the same but left open the legal and factual contentions to be raised before the single judge.