In an order passed in a suo motu PIL on coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, a division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and IJ Vora came down hard on the state government on conditions prevailing in Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, and said it was “distressing and painful”.
The facility has seen 377 COVID-19 deaths till Friday, which is a sizable portion of the 638 deaths reported in all hospitals during this period.
“It is very distressing and painful to note that the condition prevailing, as on date, in the Civil Hospital, is pathetic… We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital Ahmedabad, as on date, appears to be in an extremely bad shape” the court observed.
“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 a dungeon. May be even worse than a dungeon. Unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option,” it said.
The HC issued a host of directions to the state government to improve conditions for treatment of patients at Asia’s largest hospital.
The court also asked if the state health minister and senior health department officials had any idea what was going on at the hospital.
“Does the health minister of the state of Gujarat have any idea about the problems which 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?” it said.
“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 court further asked.
The HC directed the state government to “immediately transfer” non-performing doctors and bring in senior and experienced doctors from other hospitals “who are ready and willing to render better services in the Civil Hospital”.
It sought improvement in the working conditions of resident doctors and fix accountability of senior officers “who have failed to improve health care in the Civil Hospital leading to massive loss of human lives”.
To tackle the issue of lack of ventilators at the Civil Hospital, the court told authorities to admit patients at the Institute of Kidney Diseases and UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology where adequate number of ventilators are available.
The court further directed the state government to ask general physicians to run their own clinics or serve in the government’s COVID hospitals, in line with the policy adopted by the neighbouring Maharashtra.
To reduce co-morbid COVID-19 deaths, the court directed the government “to ensure all the private clinics / hospitals / nursing homes, which have been closed by their owners /management for the past two months, are immediately opened so as to make supplement health facilities available to the noncorona patients at large”.
It also directed private hospitals not to charge fees in advance and only seek details of people’s Aadhaar card and PAN, and recover fees only if patients are capable as per their PAN card details.
The court sought creation of a computerised COVID control centre with real-time information on each facility, adherence to treatment protocol and strict discharge policy, transfer of excess staff to other facilities, regular testing of healthcare workers, and conversion of government hospitals with over 50 beds and ICU into community health centres and hospitals, with 20 per cent beds kept for emergency work.
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