People outside Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai.
People outside Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai.
BL Soni

Within a few hours’ time, the second batch of test results of suspected Coronavirus patients, from most private laboratories will be out. However, this number is not large. While there has been a surge in calls coming into their call centres, only limited patients meet the criteria to be tested.

If anyone has a history of overseas travel or has been prescribed by the doctor, then only the private laboratories can conduct tests. Dr Nilesh Shah, President of Metropolis, said, “We have got more than 1,500 calls. But from them, not all are valid to be tested. There are at times patients with just flu symptoms want to get tested without any prescription. We are informing that we need a valid prescription from the doctor to conduct the test.” Shah claimed that within two days around 700 home visits have been registered and 300 visits have already been made. “This is only limited to Mumbai now. We plan to expand to Pune as well,” added Shah.

Metropolis is not the only one to claim that they can test up to 1,000 samples, Thyrocare is in the same league. Chandrasekar Mani, Vice President - Technologies & Infrastructure, Thyrocare, said, “We connected with more than 2,000 patients. But from them, only 120 samples were collected as others were not eligible for the tests.” Thyrocare has been collecting the samples largely from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Mani said, “We are looking at expanding to Pune and Nashik as well. But the trouble in this expansion is the lockdown in the state which restricts the smooth movement of people.” However, Mani added due to the intervention of Municipal Corporation and police authorities (on Wednesday), some of their logistics trouble has been sorted.

Echoing this, Sushant Kinra, COO, Suburban Diagnostics said, “It was a nightmare for our employees to move around, even though they had valid identification cards. But today (Wednesday), things have eased as BMC and police authorities have come forward to help us.”

Lockdown is not the only concern for these private laboratories, there are other concerns as well. “There is a shortage of kits. But we are hoping that the kits will be available soon,” said Kinra. According to Mani, the kits should be available in a few days' time, otherwise, it will be a challenge when there is a peak in samples that are sent out for testing. “The peak will be in the coming weeks.”

The biggest challenge for the private players would be keeping a check on their costs. At present, all three are charging Rs 4,500 for Coronavirus test. The test is not very expensive, but the cost of personal protective gear for the lab technicians when they go to collect blood samples was not calculated by the private sector. Kinra stated,“ The cost of personal protective gear has gone off the roof. These gears have to be changed every time a technician goes to collect the sample. And this is essential to keep our staff safe."

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