The South African Communist Party (SACP) has welcomed the settlement reached by the Competition Commission and three pathology groups – Ampath, Lancet Laboratories and Pathcare – to immediately reduce the price of Covid-19 PCR tests from about R850 to no more than R500 (VAT inclusive) per test.
This followed a formal complaint lodged by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) against private pathology laboratories, alleging that the price for supplying PCR tests for coronavirus was unfairly inflated, exorbitant and unjustifiable for South African consumers.
The SACP on Monday said the matter should not end there and joined the Competition Commission in calling on other private pathology laboratories in the country to follow suit and reduce their Covid-19 PCR tests to R500.
The SACP said there should be consequences for the profits made by private pathology laboratories from the exorbitant pricing of the Covid PCR tests.
The party said apart from the PCR tests, the price of medicine in South Africa remained exorbitant and steps needed to be taken to protect people against unfair pricing in the entire healthcare sector.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said considerations should include strengthening the regulatory framework and its enforcement.
“Like in the private laboratory sector where oligopolies are dominant, the pharmaceutical industry is dominated by monopolies, with foreign-controlled multinational corporations calling the shots.
“Steps need to be taken to protect the people against unfair pricing in the entire healthcare sector. This should form part of the wider effort to advance towards quality health care for all through implementing the National Health Insurance,” Mashilo said in a statement.
The commissioner of the Competition Commission, Tembinkosi Bonakele, speaking at a media briefing on Sunday, called on all labs conducting PCR tests to be sensitive to the plight of the public during the pandemic.
Bonakele said pathology groups should use the settlement with Ampath, Lancet Laboratories and Pathcare as guidance.
“This a major victory for South Africans, particularly the vulnerable groups during the time of a devastating and resilient pandemic.
“This substantial reduction of PCR test prices will surely alleviate their plight of consumers and enhance greater access to Covid-19 PCR testing, which is a critical part of the initiatives to avoid the escalation of the pandemic,” he said.
© 2021, Sithembile Mkhwanazi. All rights reserved.