LAHORE - On the directives of Punjab CM, Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department has abolished fee of all clinical investigations/tests in outsourced laboratories of public health facilities for current fiscal year.

According to a notification, Secretary P&SH Ali Jan Khan has directed medical superintendents to display decision of abolishing laboratory investigations/tests at prominent places in the hospital/health facility.  The CM’s announcement of free test  facility started a debate regarding impact of the decision on healthcare delivery at hospitals and on businesses of private diagnostic centres.

Officials and doctors working at health facilities are seeing no significant change as free tests facilities are limited to just 40 DHQ/THQ hospitals. Moreover, the facility will be limited till June 30.

“It is a political decision. The facility is limited to outsourced labs. Benefits will be far less than the losses”, a doctor working at Sabzazar Hospital said. He said patients and the department were earlier sharing cost of tests at these outsourced laboratories. After the decision, he said, the government will pay the entire cost from public money. He said that the share of patients in cost of tests was already nominal.

“Outsourced labs are the sole beneficiary of the decision. The government is paying five times more than the actual cost on a test. The free tests will ultimately turn into a burden both for patients and the government rather than a facility. Greed of outsourced labs can result in frequent and unnecessary tests. Patients are at risk of getting unnecessary exposure to harmful radiations”, he said.

An official at P&SH said that the decision would not affect businesses of private labs. “The decision is not applicable to all government hospitals. This facility is available at only five small hospitals in Lahore. There are few labs in the close vicinity of these hospitals. Most of the labs are outside big hospitals where this facility is not available. Outsourced labs at selected hospitals have certain capacity and as such could not cater to the requirements of all patients. As such people will still need to go to private labs for necessary tests. Moreover, large number of people trust private labs and not those inside hospitals”, he said, adding, there was no question of private labs losing any business.