The Bombay High Court while hearing a public interest litigation alleging that a pregnant woman was denied admission at JJ Hospital for not carrying a negative Covid-19 report, observed that the State and MCGM have lived up to the expectations of the people after being informed that more than 10,000 deliveries have taken place since March 2020.
Division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS Shinde went through the reply submitted by MCGM and the State in compliance with previous orders of the Court. The petitioner Mohiuddin Vaid is a lawyer.
The PIL cites a media report stating that an expecting lady was refused admission at JJ Hospital, Mumbai on the ground that she did not carry with her a negative Covid-19 report and also that she was subsequently denied admission in Dholkawala Hospital, whereafter she was attended to by an old lady who helped her in delivering the child.
Petitioner sought directions to State and MCGM to issue appropriate circular or rules/regulations binding on the hospitals in the city to regulate the admission of patients during the current pandemic of Covid-19.
Previously, the Court had directed MCGM to file a reply affidavit indicating therein the names and particulars of maternity homes and clinics which are attending to expecting ladies and the number of deliveries that have been performed in such maternity homes over the past couple of months.
Thus, two affidavits-in-reply were filed on Friday, one by the Corporation and the other by the State. With respect to the incident referred to in the news report, State has contended that no details of the concerned lady are available with JJ Hospital and it is difficult for the authorities to furnish a specific reply with regard to the contention raised in the PIL. State took a categorical stand that there has been no slip on its part to attend to expecting ladies during these troubled times. The protocol in respect of the Out-Patient Department has been produced in the said affidavit.
State also informed the Court that JJ Hospital is a non-covid hospital.
MCGM's reply affidavit contended that there have been 3905 deliveries in March, 4169 deliveries in April and about 2412 deliveries till the date of affirmation of the affidavit, of which about 359 patients tested positive for Covid-19. The affidavit states-
"Such positive patients have been treated in special facilities. Revised guidelines have been issued on May 12, 2020 for testing of even asymptomatic patients who are expected to deliver in the next five days and should any of such expecting ladies test positive for COVID-19, all arrangements would be made to arrange for smooth delivery in other facilities available with the Corporation."
The affidavit also includes in its exhibit the names of the hospitals which have been identified as Covid hospitals together with the number of beds available thereat.
After perusing through the said affidavits, Court observed-
"Based on the above facts and figures, we record our satisfaction that the Corporation and the State have lived up to the expectations of the people in general and the expecting ladies in particular. The number of deliveries performed during the past three months provides reason to hold that the contentions urged by Mr. Sakhare and Ms. Chavan are sound and that there has not been any reported incident of negligence does not call for judicial intervention on this PIL petition."
Thereafter, the petitioner submitted that an exclusive helpline ought to be provided to attend to calls of expecting ladies. To this AY Sakhare submitted that the helpline (1916) is provided by the Corporation for Covid/non-Covid patients including expecting ladies, which are attended to by the available doctors, and it may not be possible to accede to the request of the petitioner at this stage.
Finally, the Court noted-
"We appreciate the difficulties being encountered by the Corporation. However, we hasten to add that subject to the situation improving in future, the Corporation may explore the possibility to provide an exclusive helpline for expecting ladies.
We, therefore, dispose of this PIL petition expressing hope and trust that the State and Corporation shall continue in its efforts to ensure that expecting ladies are well attended to even in these testing times and that maximum care is taken so that not only the mother but the new born child does not face difficulties till such time normalcy is restored."