The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is pushing for a standard price for the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) or swab test for COVID-19.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the least the health services industry could do is to make the RT-PCR test affordable by lowering and standardizing its price so more people can avail for themselves of the swab test.
“Mas marami ang mabibigyan ng pagkakataong magpa-swab test kung pare-pareho ang presyo nito sa mga pribado at gobyernong ospital (Everyone should be given the chance to have a swab test by standardizing its price both in private and government hospitals),” Año said.
“Iyan ang isang mabisang paraan para mapigil ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 virus (That's one of the best options to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus),” he added.
The RT-PCR is the gold standard for COVID testing. While there are cheaper rapid tests in the market, Año said these tests are said to be inconclusive.
A popular news website, in its recent survey of public and private hospitals, reported that the cost of RT-PCR tests ranged from P4,000 to P13,000, a range way above the purchasing power of ordinary Filipinos.
Año said that instead of taking the test, most Filipinos would rather spend their money to buy food and other necessities and follow the minimum health protocols to prevent contamination.
“Sana, pantay rin ang presyo ng swab tests sa mga pampubliko at pribadong hospital,” he added.
Año supported the call of House Deputy Speaker 1Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero for the Department of Health to immediately address public complaints regarding the different prices of swab tests.
The Secretary also endorsed Romero's proposal for hospitals to provide free regular swab tests to their health workers who cannot afford them.
Romero said the cost hospitals incur in doing the RT-PCR screening should not be much different.
"I am assuming that they are doing the same process and using the same equipment, and the personnel involved have the same training and experience," the congressman said.
He noted that the Philippine National Red Cross charges the lowest at P3,500 per swab.
On the other hand, nine private and government hospitals in Metro Manila charge individuals RT-PCR test fees ranging from P3,500 to P8,150, he said.
In August, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Labor through Joint Memorandum Circular 20-04 urged employers of private companies to get their workers tested and shoulder the cost of the swab test.
Año also supported Romero’s call for hospitals to provide free regular swab tests to their health workers who cannot afford them.
"Our health workers are among our frontliners who are making a big sacrifice by caring for COVID patients and preventing people from contracting the virus," the Secretary said.
"We should make sure that the number of our health workers would increase, not diminish by regularly subjecting them to swab tests," he added.