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States must implement provisions on right to health, submit report in 4 weeks: NHRC advisory on second Covid wave

The NHRC had issued a comprehensive set of human rights advisories in September and October 2020, including those related to health and mental health, to protect and promote right to health as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: May 7, 2021 12:55:48 am
NHRC, Covid-19 India second wavePatients with breathing complaints are assisted by a shared pipeline of oxygen provided as langar at a gurudwara in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, UP. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued an advisory on right to health in view of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have taken into account ground reports relating to human rights violations, particularly denial of right of access to healthcare, and advised states to implement recommendations and submit reports of the action taken within four weeks,” said Bimbadhar Pradhan, secretary general of NHRC.

The advisory was issued on May 4 and, among key recommendations, the rights body said it was the responsibility of a public hospital to transfer the patient to an appropriate hospital if it did not have adequate number of beds for Covid-19 treatment.

Dr Abhay Shukla, member of the core group on health at NHRC, told The Indian Express that a patient, who has tested negative via an RT-PCR test but has symptoms and clinical assessment (X-Ray and CT scan) suggestive of Covid-19, must be treated as a Covid patient.

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The NHRC had issued a comprehensive set of human rights advisories in September and October 2020, including those related to health and mental health, to protect and promote right to health as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. According to the NHRC, however, with the advent of the second wave, the situation has worsened and India is now facing a public health emergency of unprecedented proportion and severity.

Hence, it has issued a second advisory on right to health in the context of Covid-19, to protect the human rights of patients and public in general, so as to enable them to effectively access requisite healthcare.

According to the advisory, functional and effective help desks should be set up at all public and private hospitals for preliminary check-up of all incoming patients to assess their need. If a patient is in need of urgent hospitalisation and a bed is not available, then the patient should be handheld to reach a clinical establishment where needed resources are available, the advisory has stated. In no case should the patient and kin be left on their own, the advisory further stated.

It has also stated that each health facility or clinical establishment, treating Covid patients, whether public or private, should prominently display at the entry/reception specific information regarding availability and rates of Covid testing, number of beds of each type and other provisions provided free and/or with regulated cost; and mobile number of the grievance redressal authority or other responsible person to contact in case of any grievance or need for further assistance.

Strategies to augment healthcare workforce availability should be adopted including urgent filling up of existing vacancies, while the body of a deceased Covid-19 patient should be treated with due respect to uphold dignity and handed over to family/caretakers as soon as death is declared, while ensuring that all safety protocols are followed, it stated.

Other provisions include cap on prices of essential medicines, oxygen and supplies and putting a stop to black marketing.

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