Lack of funds costing COVID19 patients dearly at SKIMS

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Major disparity in the cost of treatment exists between COVID19 designated hospitals in Kashmir. While at most Level-3 hospitals, Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug is being provided free of cost, at SKIMS Soura, it costs the patient at least Rs 20,000 for every treatment cycle.

SKIMS Soura has over 100 admissions of COVID19 patients every day. On Tuesday, 132 patients were admitted at the Institute of which 100 were sick and required oxygen support, official bulletin on COVID19 issued by J&K Government said.

A senior doctor working at SKIMS Soura said that almost all the patients with pneumonia due to COVID19 or experiencing severe symptoms of the respiratory disease are prescribed Remdesivir, an antiviral drug. The drug is being widely used for treatment of SARS-CoV2 infection.

However, the cost of treatment with this anti-viral drug is too high for most patients. The senior medico said that a treatment cycle, which involves administering at least six injections of the drug over a period of five days, is being prescribed to nearly all COVID19 patients with moderate to severe symptoms. In many patients, the treatment is continued for ten days, he said.

At the Institute, doctors that Greater Kashmir spoke to said that each dose costs the patient Rs 3500 to Rs 4500, depending upon the Pharmacy company that has manufactured the drug. “Although cheaper drugs are also available now, SKIMS sells drugs of two companies only,” a medico said. He said, often the cheaper of the two Remdesivir brands is unavailable and patients usually end up purchasing each dose for Rs 4500. “That means Rs 27000 for five days and over Rs 50,000 if the treatment is for ten days,” he said.

Pertinently, the drug is being provided free of cost at other designated hospitals. At SMHS hospital, where 164 patients were admitted on Tuesday, all of them on oxygen support, patients get Remdesivir as part of hospital supply. At Chest Diseases Hospital too, where 49 patients were admitted, 31 of them on oxygen support, the drug was part of hospital supply.

Incidentally, even at SKIMS Medical College Hospital Bemina, patients get the drug free of cost. The hospital had 31 patients on oxygen support as on Tuesday, official bulletin revealed.

Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education Atal Dulloo agreed that there was a disparity in the treatment cost at institutes that the government had designated for COVID19. “That is because the funding pattern of SKIMS is different from other tertiary care hospitals,” he said.

He however acknowledged that patients should get equitable treatment at all government hospitals. “We will look into the disparity,” he assured.