The Gujarat High Court heard the suo motu matter on Covid-19 surge in the state and expressed its displeasure at the situation and the affidavit filed by the government.
On April 20, the High Court Bench had directed the government to file an affidavit about the worsening condition in the state with respect to availability of medical resources, oxygen supply and other essential supplies to treat Covid-19 patients.
According to a LiveLaw report, the issue addressed by the High Court Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav D Karia on April 27 was related to the policy of the hospitals in denying admission to such patients who are Covid affected but reach hospitals in a private vehicle. Apparently, the hospitals are admitting only those patients who are coming to the hospital in a Government-run 108 Ambulance.
Earlier on April 20, the court had said, “We would also like the State to respond to the registration of patients through Ambulance 108, the time being taken in picking up a patient from the time the call is registered, the system/modalities through which the registration and the picking up is carried out, as there are some complaints that seriousness of the patient is not a criteria for giving preference and it is only on the basis of first come first serve basis that under the present dispensation of 108 Ambulance, the patients are picked up.”
Justice Karia took strong exception to this today, and as per a LiveLaw report asked, “No matter from which vehicle (private or government) patients are coming to the hospitals, how can doctors say that if you are not coming from a 108 ambulance, we will not treat you and will let you die?” The Chief Justice also asked, “How can doctors deny treatment?”
Issues raised by applicants
Based on a LiveLaw report, the court was told by the counsels that production of Aadhaar cards have been made compulsory despite the top court opining that it is not necessary for availing services. After examining the Aadhaar card of patients, Municipal corporation authorities are allegedly refusing such patients’ admission on account of their residence.
Further, Gujarat’s demand for oxygen presently stands at 1,200 metric tons but, as per the Central Government supply scheme, only 900 metric tons is being given to the state. The state is also diverting some oxygen to Madhya Pradesh which could create a scarcity. The counsels have also submitted that private hospitals across the state are not implementing/following state/central schemes even when the State has suggested that Maha Vatsalva and Ayushman Bharat be merged.
Advocate General, Kamal Trivedi submitted that till April 15, things were in control and only after that, the state started facing “crises after crises”. He also accepted that there was dearth of Oxygen, Remdesivir injections and manpower but assured that no hospital is denying admission to patients.
He said, “I will say that we are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Admission to hospitals is difficult. The state is conscious of what we need to do, we are open to suggestions”, tweeted LiveLaw.
AG: No intention of the State of Government to assert that we are working fine. I will say that we are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Admission to hospitals is difficult. The state is conscious of what we need to do, we are open to suggestions. pic.twitter.com/anQotX34xo
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 27, 2021
At the outset, the Bench noted that they have been getting reports about how the government is not “working in a transparent manner”. Justice Karia then asked the government if they have a plan in place when cases start doubling in May.
According to a tweet by LiveLaw, he said, “What will happen on May 1 when the number of Covid positive patients would double? What steps are you going to take? This is the way the system is working? What is your preparation for the future? Nothing. You are talking only about Ahmedabad, what about Gujarat?”
Justice Bhargav Karia also added that there was a scarcity of oxygen and that the people were forced to pay ten times more to procure it. LiveLaw quoted him saying, “Everything is on paper, nothing on ground….State’s affidavit is painting a rosy picture and is not in touch with the ground reality. We can’t sit on the ivory towers. The state has to take steps to break the chain.” The Chief Justice said that there should be more assurance from the Gujarat government that no patient will be left unattended.
The State has been asked to file another report in terms of their Covid management plan and posted the matter for hearing on May 4.
The order dated April 20 may be read here:
(To be updated with April 27 order)
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Gujarat HC directs State to be honest about Covid data
900 more Covid beds being established says Gujarat gov’t to HC
State should have done more: Gujarat HC on Covid crisis
Guj HC directs info on COVID Testing, ambulance availability be filed, govt asserts situation under control