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Court Directs Better Management at Medical Facilities and Helplines for Public Health: High Court of Andhra Pradesh

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Facts

The petitioner submits that the telephone calls to the Nodal Officers of 56 Covid Hospitals in Vijayawada on the contact numbers published in the newspapers, 34 Nodal Officers responded to his telephone calls and 22 Nodal Officers did not respond to the calls made. All 34 Nodal Officers, who responded to his calls, informed that there are no beds available in the hospitals. He further adds that even after repeatedly trying to reach out to each of the Nodal Officers it was never attended nor any form of reply to the calls were made. It was instructed by the court in the previous hearing that appropriate instructions be taken and inform the Court, based on enquiries made, of the steps taken in respect of the erring Nodal Officers, if any, by the next date fixed. If that be the case, proper management and streamlining of the hospitals relating to admission etc., for the benefit of the people, who go to the hospitals, will be seriously jeopardised. The petitioner also submitted that in some of the hospitals, doctors have been appointed as Nodal Officers. Further also submits that some of the phone numbers given do not pertain to the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Arguments

The petitioner argues that there appears to be a lack of coordination between various levels in the machinery involved in the administration and implementation of the guidelines and this issue is required to be looked into by the State with utmost priority. It was highlighted by the learned counsel appearing for the Government that there is no scarcity of beds, but the petitioner submitted that when he telephoned the Collector Camp Office, he was informed that there is a waiting list of 150 persons for admission in the hospitals. If there are vacancies, it is not understood how there can be a waiting list. It was further argued that even if beds are available, not all beds are made available to the patients seeking admission.

Court’s observations

The Bench was informed that there is a mismatch in the official phone numbers of Nodal Officers that were presented before the Court with that of which are published to the public. It was made clear that the kind of omissions and commission displaced will not be taken lightly as this kind of poor management and administration toward public health and facilities will cause serious jeopardization. The court further directed the Department to take appropriate steps in respect of such erring officials.

Court’s decision

The court asked the State to verify the numbers published in the newspapers and the numbers shown in the material papers filed before the Court and instruct the authorities to take immediate corrective action. Further, it has asked the State to consider appointing 24X7 Nodal Officers. The Bench has asked the Central Government to consider the State’s request for the supply of Oxygen concentrators and the allocation of more PSA plants for the generation of oxygen for captive consumption. It has also sought a report on the death of several Covid patients, allegedly due to lack of Oxygen. Other directions State may look into the proper functioning of 104 helpline numbers about Covid issues. The state should look into reports of pregnant ladies infected with Covid being denied admission in Covid Hospitals. The state should consider setting up more laboratories in various locations to expedite the results of Covid testing, which may reduce the spread of infection.

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