The Gujarat High Court has been hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the rising cases of Covid-19, taking stock of the available medical facilities in the state. Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Kania have flagged some issues for State’s consideration, noting that it needs to have an “honest and transparent dialogue” with the public to reduce fear, loss of trust and panic.
Noting that the State is not to be blamed for the upward swing in cases, the court said that the State must take the effort to “find out the actual number of Covid positive cases so as to remove general conception from the minds of the people that data given by the State is not accurate.”
The High Court Bench directed the State to make necessary arrangements for an officer to issue statements on the status of cases, total number of deaths, so that “faith and trust can be restored in the minds of the public at large.”
The court added, “The State must come up publicly in a transparent and fair manner with complete details with regard to availability and modalities of the required amenities, medication and related infrastructure for the treatment of Covid patients, who require either facility of Covid care centre, hospitalisation with oxygen, ventilator, medicines, etc.”
The court opined that unless the government declares that it has essential infrastructure, medication, treatment facilities, the rush for acquiring medicines, hoarding, buying at a higher price, exploitation by the unscrupulous sector will not stop.
“The State should also endeavour to make public the efforts which are being made and the time which may be taken to provide essential infrastructure, medication and treatment facilities in view of the rising number of Covid patients,” said the court.
The Government informed the court that at present, 97 testing labs are available, with 43 in government hospitals and 54 in private hospitals. The Government also stated in its affidavit that they have ordered 40 RTPCR machines to enhance testing. The State’s response also reads, “Tests per day have been increased from 33271 on 01.03.2021 to 1,45,177 on 11.04.2021.”
But the court recorded that testing facilities are not available in most districts. “It has been brought to our notice that RTPCR testing laboratories are not available in all districts of the State, what to say of the towns/talukas and tribal areas.” It has directed the State to explore different modes available to encourage setting up of labs throughout the State.
Noting the delay in collection of samples and analysing the report for results, the Bench has directed the government to increase testing. “The delay in getting an RTPCR sample being collected and further delay being caused in getting the report, may be forthwith reduced”, ordered the court.
Importantly, the court added, “Accurate reporting of RTPCR testing with correct figures of positive results be made public. The State should not feel shy of publishing the correct data of RTPCR testing results, if such figures are not being correctly reported.”
Viewed as a life saving drug for Covid infected patients, “when apparently it is not so”, the Gujarat High Court has ordered the State to “explain and communicate” to the public at large to bust the various myths around it.
The court said, “..so long as the myth continues, Remdesivir injection will always be in a deficit and being misused by black marketeers and hoarders. Such an exercise would also reduce the over prescription and undue prescription of the said injection.”
The State has already clarified in its affidavit that the drug is not viewed as direct treatment for Covid but is currently being used as an antiviral drug to fight it. They have submitted before the court that it is to be given on an emergency basis and under supervision to patients complaining of continuous, high-grade fever and showing a lack of oxygen saturation. However, even according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is no evidence that Remdesivir improves survival in corona patients, says the reply.
The court has strictly asked the State to control online portals that disclose information about the total number of vacant and occupied beds in all hospitals across the State. It said, “Instead of data being uploaded twice a day, the availability of beds should be displayed on a real time basis on the portal i.e., as soon as a bed is occupied in a particular hospital, the number of vacancies should go down and as soon as a bed is made available by discharge of a patient in a particular hospital, the number of vacancies should be immediately displayed as increased.”
This order has been passed to reduce the hardship of families who are running from pillar to post in search of hospital beds. On the issue of adequate oxygen for patients, the court said, “As assured by Shri Trivedi, learned Advocate General, the availability of oxygen would be sufficient to cater to the demands within three to four days in view of the efforts to procure the same by the State. The status of availability of oxygen vis-à-vis demand be reported to the court.”
Reeling under the Covid crisis, The Hindu reported on the active number of cases in the State that stands at 39,200 with Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara being the worst hit cities. The court also noted that the State was heading towards a ‘health emergency’ while noting various media reports on the crumbling health infrastructure. The instant PIL will now be heard on April 20.
The order may be read here: