Protect Inmates & Staff In All Care Facilities From COVID-19: Sikkim High Court To State

Shrutika Pandey

13 July 2021 5:33 AM GMT

  • Protect Inmates & Staff In All Care Facilities From COVID-19: Sikkim High Court To State

    The Sikkim High Court has expressed concern over spread of Covid-19 in various 'Care facilities' and has directed the State to take immediate steps for protection of inmates and staff thereof. A Division Bench comprising of Justices Meenakshi Madan Rai and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan while hearing its suo moto PIL for COVID-19 management, took cognizance of the situation based on a news piece...

    The Sikkim High Court has expressed concern over spread of Covid-19 in various 'Care facilities' and has directed the State to take immediate steps for protection of inmates and staff thereof.

    A Division Bench comprising of Justices Meenakshi Madan Rai and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan while hearing its suo moto PIL for COVID-19 management, took cognizance of the situation based on a news piece reporting non-adherence to social distancing at these facilities, allegedly due to practical reasons.

    The news report mentioned:

    •  25 COVID positive cases have been reported from Mangalbarey in South District, including 16 from a shelter home there. The infected children and the staff of Mangalbarey shelter home have been shifted to Covid Care Centre at CCCT Chisopani.
    • Recently 21 children and three caretakers of a Child Care Institute at Rabongla had tested COVID-19 positive and are presently admitted at the Covid care centres, Kamran.

    Thus, the Court expressed concern and sought a response from the State. It directed the State to,

    "Immediately take stock of the situation in all shelter homes, childcare institutions, old age homes, destitute homes, observation homes, open shelters, place of safety, special homes and all other such care facilities available in the State, both governmental and non-governmental, to insulate the inmates and staff from the pandemic...we implore the State Government to take all such measures including vaccinating those eligible in these care facilities, at the earliest."

    Earlier, in the matter, the Court had expressed concerns over the woefully low number of hospital beds available in the State for treatment of Covid-19 patients. Accordingly, it sought a report from the State as to the course of action it proposes to take. In response to the order, the State of Sikkim has submitted the report before the High Court on the following points:

    a. COVID Care Facilities: Regarding COVID care facilities in the State, the response mentions one Covid Dedicated Hospital, 2 Dedicated Covid Health Centres, and 28 Covid Care Centres. The State assures the Court that these facilities are following the guidelines issued by the Centre. The Court perused the district wise Covid facility disclosed by the reply and expressed concern on no mention of the guidelines followed,

    "A perusal thereof, discloses much lesser than what we expect the State to do. We had in our order dated 23.06.2021 directed the State to furnish details of the measures taken and facilities provided vis à vis guidelines issued by way of an affidavit including the human resources. The affidavit is, however, silent on which guideline that has been followed by the State, what was the requirement as per the guidelines and what are the measures taken and facilities provided as per the guidelines including the human resources."

    The Court also noted that the reply discloses Medical Officer, Staff Nurse or Medical Attendant only in some care centres. Noting that the situation is "rather grim", the Court mentioned that data for 8 Covid Care Centres in the North district discloses that they do not have a dedicated Covid Health Centre.

    "Each of these centres, having between 5 to 54 beds, seems to be manned by only one human resource", the Court noted.

    The reply remains silent on the level of human resources available in these Covid Care Centres. Although the existence of medical facilities is reflected, the adherence to the requirement of the guidelines has not been disclosed.

    b. Vaccination Drive: The reply deals with the vaccination drive in the State, submitting that the Centre equitably allots the vaccines as per the population of the State. The reply explains,

    "Once the vaccines arrive at the State Vaccine Store in STNM Hospital, Gangtok, the State Immunization Officer allocates the vaccines to the districts keeping certain factors in mind, such as, target population to be covered in the districts, availability of vaccines in the various levels of the districts, daily consumption of vaccines per day, etc.".

    However, the reply is silent about any attempt by the State to communicate with the Centre to increase the quota of vaccines keeping in mind the unique factors in the Sikkim situation highlighted by this Court in its earlier order.

    c. Setting Up Of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory: The report deals with the proposed setting up of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at one district, the request for which had been refused. The Court emphasised the importance and reiterated its earlier order,

    "This becomes more important because of the previous orders passed by this Court, whereby we had implored the Centre as well as the State to act in unison to set up such testing facilities in all the districts of Sikkim."

    The State has requested Mobile I-LABS as well as two Mobile Testing Laboratories. It has also approved Tata Medical And Diagnostic (TATA MD) to establish an RTPCR laboratory for the Namchi and Gyalshing District Hospitals within 6 to 8 weeks.

    d. Policy To Tackle The Third Wave: Concerning the proposed policy to meet the third wave, the Court noted that despite the Additional Advocate General had orally assured the Court that such a policy would be in place within a week, but is now seeking further time till the first week of August. It noted,

    "While we do understand that formulating a good policy may require a huge amount of brainstorming and resource collection in the present situation, let the policy framing may not be an excuse to strengthen up and build on the infrastructural and human resources capabilities to meet the 3rd wave, which today, does seem likely to happen. The augmentation must go on."

    The State has sought additional time to rectify a mismatch between the ambulances as mentioned in the reply vis-a-vis the data in the chart and respond to Amicus Curaie's request for action against a Medical Practitioner for unauthorized RAT testing. Advocate Jorgoy Namka is the appointed Amicus Curaie in this matter. The Center has also sought time to submit a reply in the matter.

    case is now fixed for July 28. 

    Case Title: In Re: Covid 19 Management

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