Updated: May 24, 2020 6:21:54 pm
The Gujarat High Court came down heavily on the state government for trying to “artificially control” the Covid situation in the state and called the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, the main government Covid facility in the state, “as good as a dungeon, may be even worse”.
So far, the Civil Hospital has seen 377 Covid deaths, which accounted for 45% of the total deaths in the state.
While hearing several contentions raised as part of a Public Interest Litigation on COVID19-related issues, a bench of Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora gave several directions to the state government on improving treatment and facilities for Covid patients.
Comparing the situation to “sinking of the Titanic”, the bench said, “It is very distressing and painful to note that the condition prevailing as on date in the Civil Hospital, is pathetic… We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital Ahmedabad… appears to be in an extremely bad shape. As we said earlier, the Civil Hospital is meant to treat patients. However, it appears that as on date, it is as good as a dungeon. May be even worse than a dungeon. ”
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The HC pulled up Additional Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar, Secretary Milind Torwane and Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Jayanti Ravi, who had been placed in charge of the Civil Hospital, and asked if the state Health Minister (Nitin Patel) and Chief Secretary (Anil Mukim) had “any idea” about the problems faced by patients and staff.
Linking high mortality rates to lack of ventilators, the court said, “Is the state government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the state government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?”
The court directed the state government to issue a notification making it mandatory for all multispeciality, private and corporate hospitals in Ahmedabad city and outskirts to reserve 50 per cent of its beds for Covid.
The bench also pulled up the government over its testing protocol after the state government told the court that it would play “gatekeeper” and decide when private laboratories could start testing samples for coronavirus.
In a report submitted before the court, the state government said, “…it has been observed that in many instances, unnecessary testing is being done by private laboratories and therefore, the State has decided to do gatekeeping for private labs,” adding that the state has enough capacity for lab testing, which was being provided free of cost. “…the State has decided to conduct testing in government labs so that patients can avoid unnecessary expenditure. Private laboratories shall be allowed to perform the tests, if and when, the capacity of Government labs is exhausted.”
There are 19 government laboratories in the state conducting the RT¬PCR test for Covid patients. So far, 1,78,068 samples have been tested.
Directing the state government to immediately procure testing kits so as to enable even private laboratories in private hospitals to carry out the tests at government rates, the court questioned the state government’s action as intended to “artificially control the data qua the number of cases in the State of Gujarat”.
The court observed, “The argument that ‘more number of tests which lead to 70% of the population testing positive for Covid, thereby leading to fear psychosis’ should not be a ground to refuse or restrict the testing”.
The court asked state authorities to keep a tab through the testing centres of all those who have tested positive and “may enforce isolation at home (as far as possible)” or at a quarantine facility, and only in case of symptoms may be considered for hospital admission. The HC also said it had been brought to its notice that there was no dearth of kits but they weren’t being put to effective use since they required prior approval of the state authorities.
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