Doctors in Jamaica cashing in on COVID

Cashing in on COVID

COVID-19 testing has become a cash cow for many local private doctors, some of whom are charging thousands of dollars for a single test, with some even engaged in the business without having the required accreditation from the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC).

A single antigen test costs upwards of $7,000 and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is far more expensive.

It appeared that there is the prevailing practice of several approved labs selling tests to unapproved labs. In return, the unapproved labs state that they are affiliated with the approved lab and a percentage of each test is reportedly given to the approved labs as part of the deal.

One doctor said, “The whole thing breaks down. We were told to get JANAAC approval then we would get a rubber stamp of approval from Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW). The latter has not happened; Ministry of Health added additional layers to what JANAAC has, so no one with JANAAC approval who went through the established route has Ministry of Health approval. Those with Ministry of Health approval were given it by Ministry of Health, not JANAAC. So what people have been doing is to work with one of the Ministry of Health-approved labs, buy the kits at a mark-up, and give the labs a cut,” the doctor told the Sunday Observer.

The doctor went on to explain that labs purchase the kits for as much as $47,000 and resell for $2,500 per test to the unapproved labs. Each kit contains 25 tests; therefore, at $2,500 per test, the resale value is $62,500. That’s the first profit. From there, additional mark-ups are applied to the cost of testing, squeezing consumers dry.

“This is why the testing price cannot come down. The policies of the MOHW are why the price can’t go down. They say we need to have ISO certification, which can only be given by JANAAC, but after we get that MOHW refuses to endorse our facilities. Then those who are endorsed or approved by MOHW, some do not have JANAAC approval. And, to add fuel to the fire, they have just sublet their tests to everyone — creating their own black market and then consumers feel it,” the doctor said.

“Even worse, you have the drive-through centres doing drive-through testing that Ministry of Health say should not be done. It’s the heights of double standards, and whether corruption or nepotism, why standards have not been applied right across the board. Some are going out and having partnerships with doctors’ offices that have had no inspection or approval. The cost will never go down because by the time everyone gets their cut the money mawga,” the doctor added.