Starting today, Bukit Gasing assemblyperson Rajiv Rishyakaran is offering private Covid-19 tests, the Rapid Test Kits-Antigen (RTK-AG) to the public at a reduced-cost of RM70 per test, which is significantly lower than the RM150-RM180 cost at private healthcare facilities.
“The initiative, which began exclusively for Bukit Gasing residents earlier this month, has been expanded to everyone as an effort to bring down the cost of Covid-19 testing and make the test accessible to the public at large.
“In addition, B40 category Bukit Gasing residents who are registered under BPN are able to get themselves tested at a subsidised rate of RM30 per person, Rajiv’s office announced in a statement today.
“To register for this Covid-19 test, share your details – name, address, IC number and contact number – via WhatsApp to 016 306 4104.
“Testing will be done by appointment only, and details of your appointment will be shared upon successful registration. You may also call 016 306 4104 for inquiries,” Rajiv said.
Rajiv said he was now extending this facility to everyone, be they Malaysian citizens or others.
For foreign nationals, he said they could send in their passport number.
Rajiv said his office has procured the exact same RTK-AG kits from the same vendor as the Health Ministry and is providing these kits to participating clinics.
“We have negotiated a decent bulk price and thus are able to offer the test to the public at RM70, without subsidy.
“The doctors conducting the Covid-19 screening with the RTK-AG kits are MOH-certified to conduct the test. We are still looking at possibly bringing the price down lower, if and where possible,” Rajiv added.
He also highlighted that based on the negotiations he had with the supplier of the test kit, he believes it is possible to do RTK-AG testing nationwide at RM70 for everyone, without subsidy, if the government chooses to embark on it.
“We also know that the pricing can come down even further if these test kits are purchased in a larger volume.
Rajiv said making tests available at a more reasonable price could be key to containing the spread of the disease.
“We understand that even MOH has its limitations when it comes to testing, especially since their primary focus is on close contact and the clusters.
“However, we have also heard of people who may have had casual contact but are not tested, as they are not deemed to have had close contact. Even those who present symptoms of Covid-19 but did not have close contact were turned away from government hospitals because they did not meet the criteria for testing.
“What we are saying is, those who want to be tested, or need to be tested, should be able to get tested at an affordable price,” he added.
With the revelation of the actual cost incurred to get these tests done at local clinics, Rajiv urged the Ministry of Health to embark on outsourcing the testing work to these clinics, which serve as additional resources as the nation battles a raging pandemic.
“This would free up scarce and valuable resources at the government medical facilities to focus on treating Covid-19 patients, among other things.
“With 168 clusters still active, and new ones still being uncovered, our government healthcare personnel are burning out, having fought the pandemic since March. It is time for the federal government to engage any parties who are willing to help and expand mass testing by making testing affordable across the board – in private and public healthcare,” he said.
With 15,000 doctors in the private health facilities, he said it would not be difficult to engage the private sector.
The current testing rate is at 76.4% per 1,000 people. The detection rate, on the other hand, is at 2%.
“Apart from bringing affordable Covid-19 testing to the public at large, this exercise gives an opportunity for general practitioners to participate in the war against Covid. It will also help them stay afloat, as many of these healthcare professionals have suffered financially since the MCO began,” said Rajiv.
MMA president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said on Sunday that many clinics and hospitals nationwide were reporting reduced patient attendance, some by as much as 70% to 80%, with significant income reduction and the sustainability of their practice severely threatened.
“Many senior doctors with their wealth of experience are also contemplating closing or retirement, and it is estimated that around 200 clinics nationwide will close by the year-end,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Adham Baba recently said in a parliamentary reply that a total 28% or 84 of Covid-19 fatalities until Nov 10 died before they even received treatment, indicating that cheaper and more widespread testing would have a role to play.
“Of the 216 deaths (up to Nov 10), 72% died after receiving treatment at a Health Ministry facility while the remaining 84 deaths (28%) happened before the patient arrived at a medical facility,” he said.
The majority of the deceased arrive in hospital in a severe state, with 55% at Stage 4 while 27% at Stage 3, Adham said.
The Health Ministry is also ramping up the use of the RTK-AG in screenings, which is said to yield 90% accuracy rate and fast results within 15 minutes. It has so far procured 1.1 million test kits.