The minister’s diatribe against private laboratories validates the growing feeling that some in the private sector have been using the unprecedented COVID-induced crisis to get rich.
Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb has accused the country’s private labs of not making good on their promise to perform reliable and affordable COVID-19 screening tests.
In his comments on the testing capabilities of Morocco’s private labs, the minister said that most of the serological tests delivered by private entities do not meet the health ministry’s standards.
The country’s top health official also took issue with the exorbitant prices most private labs are charging for COVID-19 testing.
According to converging local reports, such comments by the country’s top health official mean the Ministry of Health may reconsider its earlier position on the contribution of some private clinics and laboratories to the country’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As Morocco grappled with the spread of a contagious and unknown virus in early March and April, the country’s public health authorities associated private clinics with the national efforts against COVID-19.
But it was only recently, as the country feared a second wave of infections, that Minister Ait Taleb announced that his department would also grant private labs licenses to perform COVID-19 screening tests.
“The ministry will grant authorizations to private sector laboratories to carry out microbiological analyses of Covid-19 provided that these laboratories comply with health and biological safety conditions,” Minister Ait Taleb said last month.
But with concerns about the extremely high prices and the questionable reliability of private labs’ screening tests, it remains to be seen whether the authorities will once again instruct the private entities to abide by Morocco’s COVID-19 screening regulations or downright terminate their licenses to perform the tests.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time that actors in Morocco’s private medical sector are accused of dubious practices, including prohibitively high prices.
Last June, a number of Moroccan news outlets reported that some private clinics were charging MAD 4,000 ($413) for COVID-19 screening tests.
The country’s health minister later disputed the reports, however. The ministry even issued a strongly-worded statement, lambasting the publication of “false data on the cost of acquiring serological tests, supporting… allegations with a falsified document.”
More recent reports suggest that Moroccan clinics are now performing COVID-19 tests for MAD 1,200 ($120), while some laboratories carry out COVID-19 tests at prices ranging between MAD 800 ($80) and MAD 350 ($35).
While these prices are significantly lower than initially rumored, most Moroccans still point to the country’s current economic context to make the case that COVID-19 testing prices should still be lower.
But also at issue in the health minister’s recent diatribe against Morocco’s private labs is the growing feeling that some private sector actors have been using the unprecedented COVID-induced crisis to get rich.
Earlier this week, a Moroccan MP called for an audit of some companies and government officials he accused of taking advantage of citizens’ plight and the public purse during the COVID-19 crisis.