SC directs Centre to issue directions in 24 hours to states, UTs for payment of salaries to doctors

7 months ago 17
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the Centre to issue orders by Thursday to all states and Union Territories for payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers as also for providing suitable quarantine facilities for those who are directly engaged in treatment of Covid-19 patients.
A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah said: “The Central Government shall issue appropriate direction to the Chief Secretary of the States/ Union Territories to ensure that the orders are faithfully complied with, violation of which may be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act read with the Indian Penal Code."
It added that "appropriate orders be issued by the Ministry of health and family welfare, as indicated by Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General by tomorrow. List the matter after four weeks”.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by a private doctor raising questions on the Centre's May 15 decision that 14-day quarantine was not mandatory for doctors.
Doctor Arushi Jain, in her petition filed through advocates Mithu Jain and Mohit Paul, had also alleged that front line health care workers engaged in the fight against Covid-19 are not being paid salaries or their wages are being cut or delayed.
During the hearing, Mehta, appearing for the Centre, submitted that in so far as the payment of salary to the health workers and doctors is concerned, appropriate orders shall be issued by the central government to all states and UTs within 24 hours.
He said the May 15 circular on Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will also be modified, doing away the clause for non-mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers engaged in the Covid-19 duty, and they will not be denied the quarantine.
Mehta said that looking at the requirement of doctors and health workers to manage the hospital, quarantine period should be initially for one week only and thereafter taking the profiles, a decision will be taken for further period of one week.
The order will be issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directorate General of Health Services by tomorrow, he said.
Besides, the Centre is also thinking of making non-payment of salaries by hospitals to health care workers a criminal offence under the Act, he said.
The bench refused to accept the submission of senior advocate K V Viswanathan, that directions be issued to the state governments to give details of their accommodations being used for quarantine.
He contended that doctors and health workers are not receiving their salaries regularly, hence, a direction is necessary to the Centre and states and all other concerned authorities to ensure that the renumerations are paid timely.
He submitted that doctors or health workers, who are directly looking to the patients in COVID ward, are not given the quarantine facility as per guidelines dated May 15 unless they are covered by high risk exposure.
On June 12, the top court had observed, “In war, you do not make soldiers unhappy. Travel extra mile and channel some extra money to address their grievances”.
It had said that the courts should not be involved in the issue of non-payment of salary to health care workers and government should settle the issue.
On June 4, the Centre had told the top court that a “large number” of make-shift hospitals will have to be built in the near future to accommodate the constant rise in the number of newly infected people.
It had also contended that though hospitals are responsible for implementing the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) activities, the final responsibility lies with healthcare workers to protect themselves from COVID-19.

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