Delhi HC directs govt to set up helpline for pregnant women

Delhi government assured timely assistance of ASHA workers, in cooperation with the central government.

Pregnant WomenImage

The Delhi High Court directed the state as well as central government to set up helpline for pregnant women, especially ones held up in COVID19 hotspots, and to ensure that no hardship is caused to them.

The Delhi High Court gave this order after finally hearing a petition filed by a women’s rights NGO called SAMA-Resource Group for Women and Health. This petition highlighted denial of health care to women, specifically denial of delivery/child birth services in Delhi in the wake of the COVID19 epidemic and nationwide lockdown.

The petition stated that although essential services during lockdown included medical services to pregnant women as well as neo natal care, in reality women are unable to access these services leading to distress and even deaths of foetuses. The petition was filed to ensure proper coordination between the concerned government departments on this issue and seeking appointment of a nodal officer in every COVID19 hotspot, as is declared from time to time by state governments, who contact number be made public so that they can be contacted by pregnant women seeking health care. The petition stated that this should include arranging transportation to and from the hospital, securing movement passes and so on.

The Directorate of Family Welfare, government of NCT agreed to make available the same helpline that has been set up for aid of senior citizens during lockdown, to pregnant women as well. This will enable them to visit hospitals for check-ups, delivery and post-delivery consultation, whenever required. It also said that Asha Workers have been assigned with this task of assisting pregnant ladies and contacting Auxiliary Nursing midwives (ANMs)

During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel interjected that most ASHA workers have been assigned COVID19 related work and hence are not always available. To this, the counsel for department of Family Welfare submitted and assured the court that “sufficient number of Asha workers and ANMs, will be made available in their respective areas so that they can reach out to the pregnant ladies and particularly those who are in the high risk category for a follow up. Further, adequate assistance will be provided to pregnant women, particularly, in the last trimester”. He also pointed out that Asha workers are working under the supervision of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, UOI and, therefore appropriate directions be issued to the respective parties.

The petitioner was satisfied by this response and the court while appreciating the governments’ prompt responses, disposed of the petition while issuing directions to the government parties. Directions were issued to ensure that the helpline number which is proposed to be set up within two days, for assisting senior citizens in Delhi, shall also be made available for pregnant ladies. The court also directed that this helpline number shall be publicised adequately in the newspapers and the social media as also through the Delhi Police, wherever possible. The court also asked both the central as well as the state governments to work in tandem and ensure that pregnant women and their families, living in COVID19 hotspots do not face any hurdles.

If implemented effectively and in a timely manner, this measure of the Delhi government, in cooperation with the central government could ease the difficulties faced specially by pregnant women during lockdown.

The complete order can be read here.


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