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COVID- Supreme Court Asks Centre Whether It Intends To Frame National Policy On Admission Guidelines To Hospitals

Mehal Jain
30 April 2021 4:37 PM GMT
COVID- Supreme Court Asks Centre Whether It Intends To Frame National Policy On Admission Guidelines To Hospitals
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In view of the arbitrary and unjust treatment being meted out by hospitals to patients in matters of admission, the Supreme Court on Friday inquired from the Centre if it intends to formulate a national policy to serve as admission guidelines for all hospitals.If the answer to the above is in the affirmative, the bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat seeks...

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In view of the arbitrary and unjust treatment being meted out by hospitals to patients in matters of admission, the Supreme Court on Friday inquired from the Centre if it intends to formulate a national policy to serve as admission guidelines for all hospitals.

If the answer to the above is in the affirmative, the bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat seeks to know what the centre proposes the time-frame of the policy to be, and if the states/UTs, the medical fraternity and the other stakeholders have been consulted in the framing of the policy.

On Monday, the bench had been informed by Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave of the need for a uniform policy for admission to hospitals in all states.

"Some hospitals insist on COWIN app registration for hospital admission...In Delhi, you need the SDM's sign in order to be admitted in a hospital.Your Lordships have held that the right to medical facilities is a fundamental right and it cannot be denied by this bureaucracy", he had urged.

Advocate Yatin Oza had pointed out that two patients had died outside a hospital in Gujarat as they were not admitted on account of arriving in a private vehicle and not the '108' ambulance service. Advocate Sachin Patil pointed out that 30% of the test reports are wrong, and even though the patient has all the symptoms of Covid, just because the report is negative, they are not getting admitted for treatment in hospitals.

Admission only on arrival in government ambulance

On Friday, the bench indicated to SG Tushar Mehta that the '108' ambulance may take 24 to 36 hours to arrive. The court posed to him the difficulty of a patient with insufficient resources in arranging the ambulance service.

"That admission to hospitals in Gujarat is possible only if the patient arrives in the 108 ambulance is true only in part. There was only one facility which was insisting on this. This was found to be arbitrary and irrational and has now been withdrawn. I had a word in this regard with the concerned officials", the SG told the bench.

Admission only on producing Covid positive Test report

Next, the bench has indicated to the Centre that many Covid treatment facilities are demanding a positive Covid-19 report for admission. The bench has flagged as an issue in the implementation of this procedural formality that the processing of test result reports is taking time and they are received by the patients with some delay. Besides, the Court has pointed out that the existing RT-PCR tests are failing to pick up on the new variants and strains of the COVID virus.

Admission on proof of residency in district/state

Further, noting that many persons are being compelled to travel to other states in search of a bed, the bench inquired from the Central government if it has ensured that such individuals are not denied hospital treatment in such other state/UT only because they are not residents of such state/UT.

"It is personally my stand and also that of the government that citizens cannot be denied medical help only because they cannot produce proof residency in that district or state. It is the right of the citizen to get treatment wherever it is found and this right is not resident-specific. I assure Your Lordships that rules will be made in this behalf", replied the SG.

Admission on deposit of huge sum; heavy charges of treatment centres

The bench put to the SG that many Covid treatment centres are demanding the deposit of an exorbitant sum of money before admission is granted. "How are you monitoring this practice so that needy citizens are not turned away?", the court has asked. The Court has also ventured a suggestion that a helpline may be put into place to assist the citizens when faced with such a situation.

Noting that some COVID centres are charging unreasonably high amounts, the bench has asked the Centre how the prices are being regulated. The bench has also asked if this task of price regulation is being undertaken by the central government or has it been left to the discretion of the respective states and UTs.

Admission to non-COVID patients

Moreover, the bench has asked the Centre to clarify that considering there is a significant influx of patients infected with COVID-19, how is the balance being maintained to ensure that medical facilities for regular patients do not suffer. The Court has asked how the Centre proposes to deal with the preference being given to COVID patients over others and the patients not infected with COVID who are not being admitted in hospitals.

Dissemination of information on availability of beds

The bench wishes to know if the information about all Covid treatment centres in a district is easily available publicly, and if this data is posted online, is there any alternative way to avail this information if one does not have access to the Internet.

"How are the Centre and the states/UTs ensuring communication of up-to-date information as regards the number of beds vacant in Covid treatment centres in all districts? Are there helplines in place?", the Court has asked.

The bench has also posed a query as regards the measures for curbing the spread of the infection in the Covid treatment centres which are brimming with crowds of patients waiting in line for a bed. "Is there a national SOP on this aspect?", the court has asked.

As regards the shortage of beds, the bench wants to know if attempts are being made to set up temporary Covid treatment centres. Also, the Court has asked if these temporary Covid treatment centres are equipped to treat even serious COVID patients or only those with a mild or moderate case of the infection. Further, the bench has inquired how the Centre is regulating these temporary centres, where they are being established by the states and the UTs, to ensure that they meet the requisite standards.

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