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Cost of COVID-19 tests at private labs irks minister

FILE PHOTO: Health Minister Dr. Ruth Aceng

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng is irked by the high fees charged by private laboratories to carry out the coronavirus (COVID-19) tests. The Ministry accredited three private laboratories to conduct tests for the virus.

But just one of them; Lancet Laboratories is currently conducting the tests at a cost of 334,900 Shillings, according to Bashir Alicwamu, one of the officials at the facility. The other-MBN laboratories will start conducting tests in two weeks’ time while the third accredited lab, Medipal hospital laboratory in Kololo, halted the tests because according to a source at the facility, they were not fully equipped for the task.

However, the same source said that they had already set their fees at 333,000 Shillings for tests which until recently were done free of charge at the various accredited government laboratories across the country.

Dr Aceng says that while they had agreed with the private facilities to charge for the service, they didn’t anticipate it would be this exorbitant.

The minister added that she had received information that Mulago National Referral Hospital was charging 100,000 Shillings for the tests, an arrangement which she says she was not aware of.

The government had earlier revealed that they were incurring a cost of USD 65 (240,000 Shillings) for every test. With the over 300,000 Shillings charged by the private labs now, a private service would be unaffordable to many who would want to opt for a test.

Dr Aceng says the labs will be engaged to have their prices revised as the agenda by the government is to have as many people as possible knowing their status especially that the country is currently in a phase where more people will be testing positive with the onset of widespread community transmission with unknown lines of how exactly people are acquiring the virus.

According to MOH figures, 304,485 people had been tested for COVID-19 in the country by Thursday. Of these, 1332 had tested positive.

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