Even if a person recovers from Covid-19, the cost of treatment would ensure that he is finished, the Supreme Court said on Friday, adding that there should either be a cap on the cost of treatment in private hospitals or more state-run facilities which will provide affordable care should be set up.
In a series of directions to authorities on steps to deal with the pandemic, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah said the “right to health is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”. “Right to health includes affordable treatment. Therefore, it is the duty upon the State to make provisions for affordable treatment and more and more provisions in the hospitals to be run by the State and/or local administration are made,” it said.
“Even if one survives from COVID-19, many times financially and economically he is finished. Therefore, either more and more provisions are to be made by the State Government and the local administration or there shall be cap on the fees charged by the private hospitals, which can be in exercise of the powers under the Disaster Management Act,” it said.
The bench was hearing a suo motu case regarding “the proper treatment of Covid-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals etc”. In the course of the matter, the court took cognizance of fire incidents in designated Covid-19 hospitals in Gujarat and elsewhere and called for information on fire preparedness of similar hospitals across the country.
After perusing the information, the court in Friday’s order called upon states and Union Territories to appoint one nodal officer for each Covid hospital “who shall be made responsible for ensuring the compliance of all fire safety measures”.
The top court noted that due to lack of implementation despite guidelines and SOPs, the pandemic has spread like wildfire and said “strict and stern action should be taken against those who are violating the Guidelines and SOPs, whoever he may be and whatever position the violator is occupying”.
The bench said “more and more police personnel shall be deployed at the places where there is likelihood of gathering by the people…”.
“As far as possible, unless must, no permission shall be granted…for celebration/gathering even during the day hours,” the order said, adding that in case such permission is granted, authorities must ensure strict compliance of guidelines and there should be a mechanism to check the number of people attending such events.
The court also asked states where there is no curfew during the night or weekends to consider imposing it and called for “more and more testing” for Covid-19. “One must be transparent in number of testing and declaring the facts and figures of the persons who are Corona Positive. Otherwise, the people will be misled and they will be under impression that everything is all right and they will become negligent,” the bench said.