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Government to launch a scheme that will offer free diagnostic tests

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Central government has come up with a scheme that will offer free diagnostic tests to people visiting public health centers.

A bench of experts has prepared a list of diagnostic tests which are regarded as essential for all categories of health facilities. The Health Ministry has also contacted some of the biggest names in the diagnostic sector like Dr. Lal PathLabs, Quest Diagnostics, Mahajan Imaging and Star Imaging.

The scheme would improve the diagnostic infrastructure in government hospitals. Under the scheme, private health service providers will be engaged for the collection of blood samples, analysis and reporting at places where the government infrastructure is lacking. CT scan services will also be developed at district level under public-private partnership.

This action taken by the Centre would not only reduce the health expenditure of the masses but according to a newspaper report, it would also promote the diagnostics and reagents sectors, whose share currently amounts to only 20% in the medical technology market.

However, the initiative has also drawn flak from a lot of people. Sakthivel Selvaraj, a health economist told the Times of India, “With a slashed health budget and no allocation in the budget for the scheme, where will they find additional resources for this? Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan are already providing diagnostic facilities more efficiently without outsourcing. Why not follow that model? Why follow a model of outsourcing that has failed in several states like Bihar and Chhattisgarh? Outsourcing only adds to the cost.”

According to the report, some public health technology experts felt that selective outsourcing has been shown to work in certain other technology intensive areas such as ambulance care. The development of these technologies would not have been possible without the assistance of private sector.

“Experience suggests that measured formula-based centralized outsourcing is recommended only for ancillary services that are technology intensive,” told one such expert to TOI.

Many people have questioned whether the outsourcing would lead to private sectors extorting extravagant charges for their services. A doctor working in a railway hospital told NewsGram, “To prevent private sectors from exploiting people, the government should fix price rates for the diagnostic services. This scheme proposed by the government should follow the same model of Central Government Health Scehme (CGHS) which engages with only those private hospitals which agree to follow the price rate set by it. ”

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