Public Interest Litigation no. 574 of 2020 was filed by the petitioner in the Allahabad High Court for providing better treatment to corona-positive patients and better conditions at the Quarantine Centres.
A large number of people were getting affected by the COVID-19 virus every day forming a complete chain. It was stated that Government hospitals and even well-established private hospitals could not cater to the needs of the people today. There were also reports that the health workers of these hospitals have been hesitant in serving COVID-affected patients. Moreover, the private hospitals are running out of stock of drugs like Remdesivir and they need oxygen. The worst part was that certain people in private hospitals and the medicine market were making money out of this crisis. As per the newspaper’s report, the patients were being given fake injections. The PIL was filed in the interest of the public so that the magnitude with which the virus has acquired the degree of infection, would be reduced at the earliest.
ARGUMENTS BEFORE THE COURT
The counsel submitted that people were not being admitted to hospitals easily and those who were admitted in the Government hospitals and turned Antigen negative, were being forced to leave the hospital even though their SPO2 was below 90. It was argued that patients with negative RT PCR who still had covid involvement in their lungs, were not being admitted to private hospitals because of the problem of referral letters of Chief Medical Officer or District Magistrate. Ms. Shushi learned counsel had submitted that there is a scarcity of oxygen cylinders in private hospitals. Since the Government has taken the initiative of giving admission to covid patients in private hospitals also at its own cost, it must ensure the supply of liquid medical oxygen in inadequate amounts to private hospitals. It was further submitted that private hospitals were insisting patients to bring their own oxygen cylinders if they wanted admission because of this scarcity. It was also submitted that refilling of oxygen cylinders at the oxygen filling centers was not being given priority. They have to remain in the queue for almost 12 hours or more to get their cylinders filled with liquid medical oxygen. It was contended that merely creating a portal and announcing helpline numbers would not help.
The court from the discussion observed that two things were required to be streamlined immediately i.e. the management of public health infrastructure, and enhancing the infrastructure to meet at least 1% of the city’s population in every district of the state. The court further proposed a few steps to be taken by the Government immediately to curb the situation in the cities of Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Agra, Kanpur Nagar, Gorakhpur, and Jhansi. It was proposed that a mere negative antigen report should not be a ground to not admit a patient in the hospital as such patients could still infect others. Every bed in L2 hospitals must be supported with a BiPAP machine with the availability of High Flow Cannula Mask at the rate of one per two beds and a ventilator available in ICUs. Government hospitals should be provided with sufficient injections and medicines including Remdesivir for patients to be treated. The number of ambulances must be immediately increased and those must be well equipped with life-saving machines. The Government must make sure that every death in assigned private hospitals and other Covid Centres and hospitals in every district must be reported to a Judicial Officer to be appointed by a District Judge. The court also observed that the people had levelled accusations against the recently held panchayat elections. It was alleged that none of the covid guidelines had been followed. It was observed that neither the Election Commission nor the police officers did anything to save the people on election duty from getting infected by the Coronavirus.
The court issued the U.P. State Election Commission, Lucknow to explain why it failed in checking non-compliance of covid protocols during various phases of the panchayat elections held recently and why action may not be taken against it and its officials for the same and to prosecute those responsible for such violations. The State Election Commission was further directed to take immediate measures in the coming phases of panchayat elections to ensure that the covid protocols of social distancing and face masking are religiously complied with, else action would be liable to be taken against the officials involved in the election process.
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