Deplorable, pathetic: SC slams Delhi, says state duty-bound to provide care

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Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi | Published: June 13, 2020 4:15:44 am

The Supreme Court on Friday strongly criticised the governments of Delhi and four other states for their handling of the Covid crisis, and directed them to take “immediate remedial action”.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul, and M R Shah described the situation in the national capital as “deplorable & pathetic”, and expressed concern over the “grim situation” in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.

The bench issued notices to the Centre and the state governments, and directed the chief secretaries to “immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients’ management in the Government hospital in their respective States and take remedial action”.

The states have been asked to submit a “status report with regard to government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc… so that appropriate directions be issued by the Court as found necessary on the next date of hearing”.

The matter will come up again on June 17.

The court also issued notice to LNJP hospital, the largest hospital run by the Delhi government, and one of the dedicated Covid treatment facilities in the national capital.

Chief Justice of India S A Bobde had on Thursday taken suo motu cognizance of media reports on “horrific scenes” at the hospital, apathy in treatment, and the handling of dead bodies, and had assigned it to the bench headed by Justice Bhushan.

On Friday, the bench deplored the “very sorry state of affairs” in the disposal of bodies. After Solicitor General Mehta submitted a copy of the Centre’s guidelines on dead body management, Justice Kaul said: “We are concerned with the living too… Please see the deplorable conditions of people in hospitals. Dead bodies are lying in the ward.”

Mehta submitted that in Delhi, bodies had been found lying with patients, and that there had been instances of bodies being dragged with rope.

“If dead bodies are being treated like this, dead bodies are found in tbe garbage… Media has highlited these deplorable conditions. Worse than animals people are being treated,” Justice Shah said.

The bench mentioned a report by India TV on June 10, “which indicate the pathetic condition of the patients admitted in the (LNJP) hospital and the deplorable condition of the wards”.

The order observed: “Patients are in the wards and the dead bodies are also in the same wards. Dead bodies are seen also in the lobby and waiting area. The patients were not supplied with any oxygen support or any other support, no saline drips were shown with the beds and there was no one to attend the patients. Patients are crying and there is no one to attend them.

“This is the condition of the Government Hospital of Delhi which has capacity of 2,000 beds. As per the Government App, only 870 beds were occupied in LNJP Hospital as on 11.06.2020. The Government App itself gives the details of beds occupied in the Government and Private hospitals in Delhi. In the Government hospitals, the number of beds is 5,814, out of which 2,620 are occupied”, it said.

The fact that there were reports of Covid patients running from pillar to post to get admitted to hospital even as a large number of beds lay vacant, “tells about the mismanagement and sorry state of Government hospitals in Delhi”, the court said.

“The State”, it said, “is not only duty-bound to increase the number of beds but also to provide appropriate infrastructure and staff… (It) cannot abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all hospitals including Government hospitals take care of the Covid-19 patients. The duty of the State of NCT Delhi does not end in informing the people that it has arranged 5,814 beds in Government hospitals and 9,535 beds including private hospitals. The State and its officers are also duty-bound to ensure that patients are taken care, attended, provided all medical facility, the hospitals have necessary infrastructure and staff”.

The bench also asked for a “steep increase” in testing, and wanted to know why testing numbers had gone down in Delhi.

According to the Delhi government’s app, the court said, “On 27th May… the number of samples tested is 6,018, on 9th June (it) is 4,670, (and) on 11th June, the total testing in Delhi is reported as 5,077…

“Non-testing of the patients is not a solution to the problem, rather increase in the testing facility is the duty of the State,” it said. The court asked states to “consider simplifying the procedure so that more and more tests be held to benefit the patients”.

The Indian Express had reported in its edition of Thursday that the Centre had told several states that based on present projections and the infrastructure available, they were on the cusp of facing critical care shortages.

Delhi for instance, may already be short of ICU beds from June 3, and projections showed that it may run out of ventilators and isolation beds with oxygen by June 12 and June 25 respectively.

Maharashtra, according to the Centre’s projection, may run out of ventilators and ICU beds by July 27 and August 8 respectively. For West Bengal, this situation could come by July 27 and July 29 respectively.

Tamil Nadu, which has the second largest caseload in the country, may face ICU and ventilator shortages as early as July 9, and a shortage of isolation beds with oxygen by July 21, the Centre has projected.

(With Dipankar Ghose)

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