LAHORE - Private diagnostic centres are fleecing the patients by charging high rates for clinical tests whose reports are usually unreliable for physicians.

Prior to the establishment of Punjab Healthcare Commission in 2012, there was no body to regulate such healthcare establishments that caused mushrooming of private diagnostic centres all over the province, especially Lahore.

Poor patients are the ultimate sufferers of lack of regulatory mechanism as they need to pay twice for the same tests-first to these substandard clinical laboratories of own choice and then to the diagnostic centres having trust of physicians.

Unreliable diagnostic centres have gradually grown during the last two decades and now reached in thousands due to indifferent attitude of health authorities toward such an important segment of healthcare.

As per the PHC officials, the Commission has started collecting data of healthcare establishments including diagnostic centres for registration and implementation of Minimum Service Delivery Standards (MSDS). “Hopefully, data collection will be completed this year and MSDS will be implemented next year. By the mid of coming year, diagnostic centres will be under surveillance and people will get quality clinical tests service”, said Dr Mushtaq, a senior PHC officer.

“Quality labs like Sir Agha Khan, Shaukat Khanum and some others are exceptions. Majority of the diagnostic centres are mafias. Most of them work through advertisements of attractive low rates. The others work through unethical referral system,” said Dr Abdul Rauf, a leading family physician.

“Doctors refer patients to these labs and in return get due share. In such circumstances, quality of tests is compromised and as such patients are ultimate sufferers,” he added.

Dr Rauf further said that these unreliable labs usually have no qualified pathologist. “Technicians are running majority of the labs. They pay pathologists for using their names. How a technician can give authentic report is a big question,” he held.

In some cases, he said, dozens of diagnostic centres are using name of one pathologist. “I usually refer patients to labs in public sector like the one at Punjab Institute of Cardiology. It provides quality diagnostic facilities at much lower rates. Those who can afford may approach Sir Agha Khan or Shaukat Khanum as these two centres are among the most reliable institutions,” he told The Nation.

“There is fluctuation in rates of even quality labs. Different labs offer different rates for tests. This is due to lack of pricing mechanism. Labs can decide rates at own. Absence of regulatory body is responsible for such a situation.”

Shaukat Khanum offers CBC test at Rs900; Complete urine test Rs500; Blood Sugar Rs250; LFT Rs1100; Lipid Profile Rs1100; PCR Quantitative Rs18,000; PCR Qualitative Rs15,000; and Genotype Rs19,000.

Al-Khidmat Lab offers CBC/ESR at Rs400; Complete urine test Rs200; Blood Sugar Rs100; LFT Rs700; Lipid Profile Rs700; PCR Quantitative Rs6,000; PCR Qualitative Rs3,500; and Genotype Rs6,000.

PIC offers CBC at Rs100; RBC Morphology Rs50; and Lipid profile at Rs340.

When contacted, the PHC high ups admitted registration of diagnostic centres and implementation of MSDS an uphill task. “Leading centres like Sir Agha Khan Shaukat Khanum and Chughtai Lab have already been registered. So far we have compiled data of labs in five divisions. The remaining four divisions will be covered during the current year,” said Dr Mushtaq.

“In the next year, labs will be briefed about MSDS. Licenses will be issued after inspection. Hopefully, MSDS will be implemented by mid next year. PHC will monitor the working of lab and ensure provision of quality diagnostic facilities to public at large,” he added.