Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai | Published: June 14, 2020 2:45:33 am
The court, before disposing of the plea, observed that inequalities were exposed by the pandemic. (File)
The Bombay High Court, in a significant judgment dealing with a batch of Covid-19 petitions, expressed concern over the rise in number of cases in Maharashtra and directed the state government, Centre and civic bodies to consider increasing healthcare budget and expenditure and to give priority to emergencies while admitting patients.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice A A Sayed on Friday passed a ruling on a batch of pleas filed by Mehrwan Farshed, Mutahhar Khan, NGO Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Sarika Singh, Khalil Ahmad Hasanmiya Wasta and Dayanand Stalin seeking relief for non-Covid patients, stating that they were being refused treatment in government as well as private hospitals, and this had led to deaths.
C J Datta, who authored the 96-page judgment, made several suggestions to the authorities and said, “Now that Covid-19 has taught a good lesson, the desirability of increasing the budgetary allocation for public health and care for setting up more modern facilities to cope up with similar such challenges may be given a serious thought.”
A batch of public interest pleas voiced grievances arising out of spread of Covid-19 infection including the facilities for non-Covid patients, testing labs in all districts, adequate ambulance facilities to ferry patients, directions against private hospitals overcharging for Covid and non-Covid treatment and indiscriminate use of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) among others. The CJ Datta-led bench had reserved its order earlier this month.
The court observed that the current situation does not appear to be such that direction for deployment of central armed forces or for installation of CCTV facilities is warranted.
HC further suggested that although unavailability of beds is no excuse for refusing admission to patients, efforts shall be made to first admit those patients who genuinely deserve treatment in hospitals in preference to others who out of fear may seek admission but can wait.
The court went on to suggest, “Endeavor be made for drive for robust detection of positive cases, intensive contact tracing, aggressive testing, and extensive spread of information and awareness relating to norms to keep one safe for a better future”. “Develop wholesome strategy for dealing with all classes of patients, and balancing health care for Covid-19 patients and patients suffering from other diseases alike,” the court suggested.
While stating that the entire human race has been facing worst crisis of this century, the HC suggested the Centre, state government and civic bodies take an informed decision based on statistical data and other inputs, either on continuation of lockdown or revocation of relaxations to the extent necessary or regulation of human activities to keep the nation working and at the same time preventing further risk.
The court also said if any frontline or healthcare worker at non-Covid hospital or wards expresses willingness for being tested on RT-PCR method, the authorities shall proceed in accordance with ICMR guidelines and protocol. It said that the state government should not waste any time if testing facilities are required to be set up in the non-red zone districts.
Moreover, the court asked the state government to see to it that other municipal corporations emulate Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) helpline (1916) and make real time information available to the citizens.
The bench further referred to the issue related to shortage of ambulances and said that the state and BMC may consider private ambulances to be made operational subject to available human resources. “If indeed the platform of Uber can be utilized, as submitted by BMC, that could take care of a part of the problem, i.e., of locating and requisitioning ambulances which are then not engaged.”
Moreover, the court while addressing concerns raised by senior counsel Mihir Desai on indiscriminate use of HCQ to slum dwellers, the court said that it should not be administered to children below the age of 15 years and to pregnant and lactating women and refrained to pass order on the allegation.
The court, before disposing of the plea, observed that inequalities were exposed by the pandemic. “It has shown how pitiable the conditions of migrant workers in India are. India, as things stand now, can hardly think of a fair and just society any time in the near future,” said CJ Datta.
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