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COVID-19- "State's Affidavit Doesn't Reflect Ground Reality, Only Paints Rosy Picture, No Patient Should Remain Unattended": Gujarat High Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
27 April 2021 11:06 AM GMT
COVID-19- States Affidavit Doesnt Reflect Ground Reality, Only Paints Rosy Picture, No Patient Should Remain Unattended: Gujarat High Court
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Hearing the suo motu proceedings initiated by it to take stock of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state of Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday (April 27) expressed its unhappiness over the response filed by the State Government pursuant to the Court's last week order.

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday (20th April) asked the state government to come up with a Reasonable Remdesivir Distribution Policy.

A Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Bhargav D Karia had perused the affidavit-in-reply filed on behalf of the State respondents covering most of the issues flagged by the HC in its 15th April Order (more details about the affidavit-in-reply/hearing could be read here).

Now, today, the same bench heard the counsels appearing for different parties, the Advocate General and the Government pleader.
The main issue which the Court discussed several times during the course of the hearing was related to the policy of the hospitals in denying admission to such patients who are COVID affected but reach hospitals in a private vehicle. Apparently, the hospitals are admitting only those patients who are coming to the hospital in a Government-run 108 Ambulance.
Importantly, Justice Karia remarked,
"No matter from which vehicle (private or government) patients are coming to the hospitals. How can doctors say that if you are not coming from a 108 ambulance, we will not treat you and will let you die?"

Issued raised by the Counsels

  • Aadhaar Card has been made compulsory for COVID treatment, it shouldn't be so even when SC says that Aadhaar isn't mandatory for availing services. This condition should be withdrawn as many patients would be there who do not have an Aadhaar card. [Anand Yagnik]
  • The Municipal Authorities must not refuse admission to patients just because they do not reside in their area limits. After examining the Aadhaar card of patients, they are refusing such patients' admission on account of their residence. [Anand Yagnik]
  • The Private Hospitals are not implementing/following State/central schemes even when the state has suggested that Maha Vatsalva and Ayushman Bharat be merged. [Anand Yagnik]
  • The state's demand for Oxygen is presently 1200 MT, but, as per the Central Government supply scheme, only 900 MT is being given to the State. 300 MT demand needs to be bridged. [Shalin Mehta]
  • 201.58 crores allocated by the Central Government over 160 PSA plants. 33 are functional, 59 coming up by April end, 80 by May end. These plants could be set up within a couple of weeks. But People who are in the Oxygen manufacturing business are hindering the process. [Shalin Mehta]
  • Oxygen shortage would be faced in Gujarat. The issue needs to be addressed by the Central Government. The State of Gujarat is already giving oxygen to other states like MP, this may lead to a situation where there would a shortage of oxygen in the state itself. [Shalin Mehta]
  • India's Oxygen need is 5000 MT and the production is 7200 MT, so there is no shortage, the problem is related to the supply chain, and it isn't about Oxygen production. [Shalin Mehta]
  • The waiting period for 108 ambulances is 32-48 hours. We need to break the chain. We had an inauguration event, where a Z+ security person came, there was photo ops. Isn't the issue of Reservation for beds for VIP and VVIP, unreasonable as per Article 14? [Counsel Kavina]

Submissions made by the State Government

At the outset, the Advocate General, Kamal Trivedi submitted that till April 15, things were in control and thereafter, the State started facing crises after crises. He also mentioned that the Crisis of Oxygen, Remdesivir injection is there and the lack of manpower was also there.

Importantly, he submitted that it wasn't the intention of the State of Government to assert that it was working fine. He also said,

"I will say that we are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Admission to hospitals is difficult. The state is conscious of what we need to do, we are open to suggestions."

He further accepted that the situation was precarious, not just in Gujarat but pan India and that is why the Central Government had come into action. It was allocating Oxygen, Remdesivir, and other resources to the State Government.

He further added that the State Government was open to suggestions and that the system was in place but there was a deficit of resources.

Issues discussed by the Court

When the Advocate General submitted before the Court that he came across a video clip, wherein one of the officers' phone number was made public and it was said that if 108 ambulance was not available, the call could be made to the said officer, the Chief Justice asked him as to what actions did the State Government take in such a matter

Further, the Chief justice also added that he had also come across such reports, and he enquired from the State Government as to what actions were being taken by it. The CJ also remarked that the Court was getting inputs that things were not working in a transparent manner.

Thereafter, Justice Karia asked the Advocate General as to what would happen on May 1 when the number of COVID positive would be double?

Importantly, he added that there was a scarcity of oxygen and that the people were forced to pay 10 times to get oxygen. "Everything is on paper, nothing on ground reality," added Justice Karia.

Justice Karia also remarked,

"State's affidavit is painting a rosy picture and is not in touch with the ground reality. We can't sit on the ivory towers. The state has to take steps to break the chain."

Thereafter, the Chief Justice also said,

"There should be an assurance from the State Government that no patient is unattended, even if they could be given treatment outside the hospital, that would also be alright.

Lastly, the matter was posted for further hearing on Tuesday (May 4) and the State Government was directed to file a report indicating the measures taken by it to deal with the COVID situation in the State.

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