Updated: May 7, 2021 7:18:36 am
Maintaining that other civic bodies in Maharashtra should replicate BMC’s model for Covid-19 management in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said it was “high time” that private hospitals consider having their own oxygen plants to meet daily consumption demands.
The court also said that the Centre and state must take strict measures to curb black-marketing and profiteering by MNCs that are making profits by selling anti-viral drugs for higher prices to “exploit” Covid-19 patients in dire need. Further, it said that to curb the profiteering, medical practitioners should not insist in prescribing drugs of foreign companies to treat Covid-19, if those manufactured in India were widely available for cheaper price and could be used as alternative drugs.
The HC suggested that the state can consider taking measures, including imposing a complete lockdown for a limited period in districts reporting substantial rise in cases.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by Mumbai-based lawyer Sneha Marjadi and social activist Nilesh Navlakha, seeking proper management of Covid-19 treatment in Maharashtra and swift penal action against black marketers.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state, said that from April 21 to May 9, the Centre has allocated 8.09 lakh vials of Remdesivir drug to Maharashtra and seven private manufacturing companies are expected to make these vials available every day. The state, however, had received only 3.5 lakh vials till May 4.
He added that while the state’s requirement was 51,000 vials each day, it was getting only 35,000 daily. “Supply is less than demand. We are using the stock judiciously, but companies should comply,” Kumbhakoni said.
The state further said it was supposed to receive 1,804 MT of oxygen as per a April 30 Union government order but the same was not sufficient. It added that it was manufacturing 1,200 MT by itself and getting only 600 MT from outside Maharashtra.
The bench said that while Maharashtra seemed to be managing the Covid-19 situation better than other states due to the strict restrictions in place, it should not lower its guard as a third wave seemed inevitable. “Other states are seeing deaths due to lack of oxygen. We are concerned with Maharashtra… there should not be a single death for want of oxygen.”
Referring to a recent Supreme Court remark that regarded the ‘Mumbai model’ for Covid-19 management as a model for the entire country, the HC said, “It should also be regarded as a model for other municipal bodies in the state.” It also suggested that the “Nandurbar model” of real-time updates on oxygen, drugs and bed availability be replicated in other districts of Maharashtra.
Expressing concerns over the “alarming situation” in Pune district, the HC said, “… why don’t you (state) think total lockdown should be imposed? We do not want to cross our boundaries. We are giving you (state) indications.”
“It appears that Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nagpur have largely been affected by Covid-19 and there will be a cascading effect on semi-urban and rural areas. You (state) should do something about it,” it added.
The court also said that “rackets” compelling patients to buy drugs at higher rates must be stopped. “If there is any entity which is making profit, the Centre and state need to put their foot down. India is not a place where these multi-national companies can exploit and make profits.”
The HC will hear the matter next on May 12.
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