The Gujarat High Court on Friday observed that the condition prevailing in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which is dedicated for COVID-19 treatment, was pathetic.
"It is very distressing and painful to note that the condition prevailing, as on date, in the Civil Hospital, is pathetic", observed a division bench comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora.
The Court asked if the Gujarat Government was aware that the lack of adequate number of ventilators was the cause of high mortality of patients there.
"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 bench asked.
The Court lambasted the health department and asked if the Health Minister was aware of the affairs of the Civil Hospital.
"We wonder, how many times the Health Minster of the State has visited the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad so as to keep a watch or take stock of what is going on at the Civil Hospital. Does the Health Minister of the State of Gujarat has any idea about the problems which the patients, doctors, nursing staff and other employees are facing as on date? How many times the Health Minister has interacted with the Medical Officers and other staff members in person so as to understand their difficulties and problems? We wonder whether the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has any idea as to what is going on in the Civil Hospital? We wonder how many times the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has paid visit to the Civil Hospital?"
The Court noted that out of total 625 deaths in Gujarat, 570 deaths have been recorded in the Ahmedabad City till 20th May 2020. Out of total 570 deaths, 351 deaths have been recorded in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. The Civil Hospital contributes to 62% of the total deaths.
The mortality rate in the Civil Hospital, which is run by the Gujarat Health Department, is 13%. At the same time, the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients at SVP Hospital, run by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, is 7%, though patients brought to both hospitals are by and large from the same area.
The Civil Hospital contributed to highest death in most of the week during the last eight weeks, the Court noted.
"It is very distressing to note that most of the patients in the Civil Hospital are dying after four days or more of the treatment. This indicates complete lack of critical care", the Court said.
"We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, as on date, appears to be in an extremely bad shape. Ordinarily, the citizens hailing from a poor strata of society are being treated at the Civil Hospital. This does not mean that human life is not to be protected. Human life is extremely precious and it should not be allowed to be lost at a place like the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad", the Court observed.
The Court even went to the extent of calling it a "dungeon".
"As we said earlier that the Civil Hospital is meant to treat the patients. However, it appears that as on date, it is as good as dungeon. May be even worst than a dungeon. Unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option".
The Court listed the following factors as matters of concern :
The Court also recorded in the order the contents of an anonymous letter, stated to have been sent by a doctor of the hospital, which described the sorry state of affairs there.
The Court said that ordinarily it would not take cognizance of such anonymous letters. "However, the situation is so grave that we should not ignore the contents of the letter", it said.
The letter stated that the medical personnel are not given proper PPE kits and N-95 masks, and highlighted that doctors working there are not tested for COVID-19 or even isolated.
"If the condition remains same in CHA , doctors working here will be super spreaders of COVID19", the letter had stated.
The Court asked the State Government to take the issue seriously, and passed the following directions.
Lack of ventilators
It was brought to the Court's notice that the problem of lack of adequate number of ventilators at the Civil Hospital can be taken care of by shifting the patients to : (1) Institute of Kidney Diseases (2) U.N. Mehta Institute of Cardiology.
Taking note of that , the Court ordered that adequate steps shall now be taken to admit the patients at these two institutes so that in case of emergency.
The Court also constituted a committe of the following members to look into the issues plauging the COVID-19 hospitals in Ahmedabad
"Maintenance and improvement of public health have to rank high as these are indispensable to the very physical existence of the community and on the betterment of these depends the building of the society which the Constitution makers envisaged..
Without a guarantee of health and well being most of these(constitutional) freedoms cannot be exercised fully. To make other rights meaningful and effective right to a healthy life is the basis underlying the constitutional guarantees", reminded the Court.
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Click here to download the Order (Paragraphs 48 to 50/pages 90-104 relevant with respect to this report)