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SRINAGAR: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Tuesday has sought free diagnostic tests including MRI, CT and PET scan for patients at government-run hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir.  “That would bring huge relief to poor patients,” said DAK President Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a communique. “Poor patients go to public hospitals with a hope that free treatment will be given to them, but they leave hospitals without treatment because they cannot afford the expenses of medical tests,” he said.
 
“Despite availability of latest equipment at government hospitals, patients do not have access to them because of financial constraints,” he said. “All these advances are meaningless if patients cannot avail them,” he added. Dr Nisar said government hospitals are no less than private hospitals when it comes to spending money. “The contrast enhanced CT scan costs to the patient Rs 3700 and for CT angiography patient has to pay Rs 4200.  For contrast enhanced MRI and MR angiography, patient is charged Rs 3700 each.
 
PET scan, which is used to detect cancer costs Rs 15,000 to the patient. Patient has to pay Rs 5,500 for coronary angiography which is done to diagnose blocked or narrowed vessels in a heart attack patient,” he said. “While these diagnostic tests are vital for making effective decision about treatment, they are out of reach for poor,” said Dr Nisar.  He said from simple tests like CBC, KFT, LFT, Lipid profile, thyroid function, urine examination to x-ray, ECG, Echo, USG and Endoscopy, patients are being charged.
 
Dr Nisar said while JK government has announced free drugs in public hospitals, patients have to pay even for life-saving medicines. If someone gets a heart attack, he/she has to pay Rs 30,000 for tenecteplase, a thrombolytic drug that dissolves clot in clogged arteries and restores blood flow to heart. Poor have to end up on compromise in treatment as they cannot afford this costly drug. Patients have to pay for high-end antibiotics that are unaffordable to poor patients and doctors end up prescribing less effective drugs to them.