The Supreme Court on Friday passed elaborate directions after having taken suo motu cognizance of the lapses and shortcomings in providing medical care to COVID-19 in hospitals in various States, especially in the National Capital Territory of Delhi,
The Order passed by Bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah emphasizes on the importance of supervision and monitoring of infrastructure and facilities being provided in Government hospitals, while also dealing with issues regarding testing and pricing of treatment among others.
The Directions on various aspects are as follows:-
Regarding Monitoring of Government Hospitals Dedicated to COVID-19 Care, Especially in Delhi
1. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to constitute an Expert Committee of Doctors to constantly inspect the affairs of hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
2. Expert Committee in Delhi will comprise of Senior Doctors from Central Government Hospitals, Doctors from GNCT Hospitals, AIIMS as well as an officer from MoHFW
3. This Committee has been authorised to inspect, supervise and issue directions to hospitals in NCT based on their inspection. Committee must visit each such hospital at least once a week.
4. Committee may pay a surprise visit in addition to the prescribed weekly visit, and submit a report to NCT as well as MoHFW.
5. All States to also constitute Expert Committees for inspection and guidance to hospitals, and to issue necessary guidelines regarding infrastructure.
6. Chief Secretaries of all States have been directed to ensure such Committees are constituted immediately so as to begin their work within a week's time.
This direction stems from the affidavits filed by the Centre and GNCT Delhi after the Top Court had sought a response from them regarding remedial steps taken by them. Noting that the Delhi Government appears unaware of the shortcomings in its patient care facilities, it is urged that more vigilance is required to ascertain what the problem is and consequently take steps to remedy it.
"The affidavit tries to give an impression to the Court that everything in the Government hospital in NCT, Delhi is well and all steps are being taken by the Government of NCT of Delhi. When the Government does not endeavour to know any shortcomings or lapses in its hospitals and patient care, the chances of remedial action and improvement becomes dim.
…We impress upon Government of NCT of Delhi to be more vigilant in knowing about the deficiency and lapses in functioning of the hospitals and patients care and take immediate & remedial steps to redeem the miseries of patients, the public who needs medical care and help."
Regarding Installation of CCTV Cameras
1. Footage from the CCTV Cameras shall be made available by the hospitals in NCT of Delhi to the Expert Committee for scrutiny during inspection.
2. In Government Hospitals of NCT Delhi, where CCTV cameras are not yet installed, steps must be taken to install them in all wards
3. Chief Secretaries of other States must also take appropriate steps to install CCTV Cameras in all hospitals dedicated to the treatment of COVID patients.
While pulling up GNCT Delhi, the Supreme Court acknowledged this 'welcome step' taken by LNJP Hospital in installing CCTV cameras in all wards of the hospital. Observing that such a step would "not only help the hospital management to immediately find out the requirement of proper care with regard to patients admitted in the wards but also ensure transparency in the patients care in the hospital", the Court directed all States to install CCTV cameras across government hospitals dedicated for the care of COVID-19 patients.
Regarding Attendants to Be Present With COVID Patient
1. All Covid-dedicated hospitals shall permit one willing attendant of the patient in the hospital premise, who can remain in an area earmarked by the hospital.
2. All COVID-19 dedicated hospitals to set up a helpdesk to physically or telephonically address enquiries about patients admitted in the facility.
Regarding Discharge Policy
1. Ministry of Home Affairs to issue appropriate directions, in discharge of their power under the Disaster Management Act 2005, to all States and Union Territories (UTs) to follow the policy of 08.05.2020 in discharging of different categories of patients.
The Top Court endorsed the Centre's discharge policy, which, the Court stated, must be followed uniformly by all States and Union Territories (UTs), in order to achieve clarity in the minds of all concerned.
Regarding Capping of Prices for COVID-19 Testing and Other Facilities
1. The Centre may issue appropriate guidelines or directions to all States and UTs and prescribe reasonable rates for all COVID related facilities and tests. These directions must be uniformly followed by all concerned.
2. If there is a difference in any particular State or UT, the same may be specifically noticed and directed accordingly.
1. The Court recorded the submission of the State of Maharashtra that its Government had already fixed the rate of testing at Rs.2200 and Rs.2800, and alluded to it as a welcome step
2. The affidavit of NCT Delhi was also noted, wherein it has been informed that the cost of testing has been reduced substantially and the Government has issued Orders pursuant to the same
Regarding Daily Tests Being Conducted
1. The Bench took note of Maharashtra Government's submission that 16000 tests were being conducted across the State on a daily basis.
2. The Court recorded NCT Delhi's submission that by June 20 daily testing would be increased to 18,000 in the National Capital
Regarding Maharashtra's Policy of Not Giving the Report of COVID Positive Patient to Relatives
During the hearing, Bench took note of a circular released by the Maharashtra Government pertaining to non-giving of reports of Coronavirus test to patients and/or their relatives and observed that such a restriction imposed by the State Government should be done away with. The Counsel for the State of Maharashtra stated that he would advise the Government to review the circular and assured the Court that the families would be permitted to get the reports.
"We have no doubt that the States and all concerned shall supply a copy of the report of the patient to him or his relatives and the hospital", recorded the Order.
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