Kerala bringing in new legislation to cut health care cost: Minister

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 15 (IANS) Kerala is planning to bring in new legislation to rein in private medical laboratories in the state, which is expected to bring down the cost of health care, said state Health Minister K.K. Shylaja here on Tuesday.

The new legislation will ensure that the common man is not fleeced by private laboratories as the standard rates for blood tests and scanning will have to be displayed, she told reporters here.

The minister was speaking after the launch of a Comprehensive Health Care Programme, which is expected to revamp the public healthcare system in the state.

“The draft of the legislation is now ready and it includes standardisation of rates that will be applicable to all the private medical laboratories in the state. Once this becomes law, there will be stringent mechanism to tackle those who do not fall in line,” said Shylaja.

State Health Secretary Rajiv Sadanandan told IANS that the new law was to have come before the state assembly in the just concluded session, but due to a packed session it was not possible and now this would certainly come in the next session.

The cost of health care has gone up dramatically and with more doctors preferring to diagnose ailments through investigations, private laboratories were making money with even a basic (lipid profile) blood test for cholesterol shooting up to Rs 450, he said.

But the state government in a modest way has launched laboratories which are attached to major hospitals and the central public sector, while leading condom manufacturer HLL Life Care has also started medical laboratories, where the rates are much lower as compared to the private sector, the minister said.

She said the new programme will also see strengthening of the health care system at the grass roots, and in all the 140 assembly constituencies a family health centre would be set up. The services of retired medical professionals would also be sought, she added.

“We are expecting fresh funds from the newly-constituted Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board and already sanction for new cath labs to be set up in eight district hospitals has been given,” the minister said.

With regard to cancer treatment facilities, she said the Regional Cancer Centre in the capital city has become overcrowded and to tackle that steps would be taken to beef up facilities at the Malabar Cancer Centre in Kannur district.

“A new cancer centre is there in Kochi, besides cancer treatment at all state-run hospitals will also be improved. A major lacunae facing the health department is that the staff pattern that exists today is of 1963. This will have to be changed for things to go smoothly and at a fast pace,” she added.