Coronavirus outbreak: Mira-Bhayandar civic body pays for COVID-19 tests in private labs

Updated: Apr 21, 2020, 07:20 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

The cities were dependent on the state govt labs in Mumbai for the tests whose results took time; MBMC decides to give financial help so that test results come early

People stand in a queue outside a ration shop at Kurla on Monday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
People stand in a queue outside a ration shop at Kurla on Monday. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The BMC could borrow a leaf from the Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation's book. The MBMC has been bearing the cost of tests for COVID-19 conducted in private labs. The civic body paid for all 307 suspected cases in the two cities after a decision taken last Saturday. Interestingly, the richest municipal corporation of the country, governing a population in Mumbai which is approximately 15 times more than that of Mira-Bhayandar, only provides 350 free tests a day.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has a population of 1.24 crore in its jurisdiction, and an annual budget of R33,441 crore, seems to be struggling to give free tests. Many people have to go to private labs and have paid more than R4,500 for the COVID-19 test, though there is a cap on the cost by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

To get results in time
The Mira-Bhayandar Corporation, with a population of 8.15 lakh and an annual budget of 1,635 crore, and other civic corporations of areas in the MMR region such as Navi Mumbai are dependent on the state government labs in Mumbai – mainly Haffkine and JJ hospital - for testing for COVID-19, therefore the waiting period is long.

Hence the MBMC, in a meeting attended by Mayor Jyotsna Hasnale and civic commissioner Chandrakant Dange on April 11, decided to pay for the tests in private labs. "The patients opted for tests in the government lab as the cost in private labs is more. So MBMC decided to give financial help so that the test results come early and the patients get treatment in time. Even the action regarding high-risk contacts and containment zones can be taken early which restricts further spread of the virus," said one of the officers who attended the meeting.

So far the MBMC has paid for the tests of 307 people from April 12 to April 18. "We are doing it with the help of CSR activities. For every test, the MBMC paid R3,000 and rest R1,500 comes from CSR funding. The initiative helped us diagnose patients early and give them treatment as soon as possible," said Dange, municipal commissioner of MBMC.

The corporation sent 400 swabs for tests from the beginning of the lockdown, out of which 205 were negative.

BMC speak
"The BMC has provided free tests in Kasturba and KEM – around 350 daily – and we are going to increase the number of tests so that every suspected or high-risk patient can be tested at no cost," said Pravin Pardeshi, municipal commissioner of the BMC.

After at least 13 more cases were reported in Mira-Bhayandar on Sunday, the MBMC announced a complete lockdown from Monday to Thursday. With 12 new positive patients reported Monday, the number increased to 94.

No. of tests MBMC has paid for, from Apr12-18

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