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HIALEAH, FLA. (WSVN) - The president of Larkin Community Hospital in Hialeah is defending the hospital’s decision to charge for coronavirus testing, a decision that has left some people upset over the cost.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez stood outside the hospital, at 1475 W. 49th Place, to announce the start of COVID-19 testing at the location during a Friday news conference.

“The City of Hialeah will be working together with the hospital to be able to provide this incredible service,” Hernandez said Friday.

Dr. Jack Michel, the hospital’s president, joined Hernandez during the news conference.

“It’s our pleasure to be able to announce that Larkin Community Hospital is deploying its full service molecular lab to be able to do high-output testing for COVID virus,” Michel said Friday. “Hopefully, this will alleviate the fears in the community as far as whether you have the disease or not.”

Michel added the hospital would be doing 500 tests per day, every day, until they run out of supplies. First responders and medical personnel would be tested first, and then, the drive-thru testing would open to the public, which has since started.

However, what was not mentioned was that residents would have to pay $150 for a test.

In an email sent to 7News, a viewer said paying to be tested was “wrong.” The viewer also said in Hialeah “many residents are on food stamps and also subsidized housing and may not have enough money to pay for this test.”

Michel said the hospital should have made the cost more clear in a phone interview with 7News.

“Well, I mean, obviously, after I’m hearing the questions now I see that, and yes, I definitely would have,” Michel said. “I think that in the future, I would have. It’s kind of lessons learned, right?”

Michel said that unlike other locations in South Florida providing free testing, Larkin is offering an appointment-only service with little wait. They decided to start testing after seeing delays elsewhere.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people that want to pay and that can pay,” Michel said. “People are happy. A lot of people are very happy to pay, and I haven’t seen … I mean, obviously people are told ahead of time, so they know that this is a specific service. This is not really a hospital service. This is a laboratory service.”

7News viewers’ concerns were also raised after a Facebook post from Michel from Sunday was shared more than 6,000 times.

In the post, Michel said, based on testing, “we can conservatively assume that more than 50% of our local population will be infected with COVID-19 in the next few weeks. We are going to be going through what New York is going through now (within 3 weeks) and eventually what Italy is going through (in one or two months) in terms of sickness and death.”

When asked about the social media post, Michel said, “The purpose of the post is not to alarm people. The purpose of the post is to make sure that people practice the things that they are being told to practice, and that they don’t take this lightly. I think that, as health professionals, as doctors, we have a responsibility to inform our patients and our community of what we see as a danger.”

Hernandez released a statement that draws a distinction between the city and the hospital.

“Any procedures and protocols for the testing of COVID-19 were administrated by Larkin Community Hospital and not the city of Hialeah,” he wrote. “This is a private hospital that is working very hard to obtain federal and state funding to be able to provide these tests at no cost to our residents.”

Hernandez also said Larkin Community Hospital is charging the city $150 per test for first responders. As of Tuesday, 25 Hialeah firefighters and police officers have been tested for the virus.

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