On the night of 19th April, 2020, it was reported in newspapers, at Padarayanapura in Bengaluru, that a few people who were sought to be quarantined attacked the doctors as well as the police. A writ petition was filed with respect to the same at the Karnataka High Court. Having heard the arguments of both the petitioner and the respondent, the High Court directed the State Government to place on record the action taken against the perpetrators. The Court acknowledging the paramount importance of providing adequate police protection to the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers in the battle against Covid-19, asked the State Government to place on record policy decisions taken with respect to the same.
The petition being heard by a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna said, “It must be clarified whether the State has any policy to provide armed police constables for protection of all the health workers. The State will also have to place on record what steps it proposes to take to prevent such incidents. The State must come out with the policy which applies across the State for protecting this class of citizens who are on the forefront in the battle against Covid-19.” The State Government was ordered to respond by 28th April, 2020, the date of the next hearing.
The Court’s attention was also drawn towards the non-availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other equipment like masks, hand gloves, etc amongst doctors and nursing staff across the State, in health care facilities like Primary Health Centres (PCHs) and other facilities at grass root level. The State had placed on record the efforts taken to procure and manufacture PPE kits and other necessary equipment. However, as pointed out by the learned counsel appearing for the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA), masks were not available to many health workers at the grass-roots level in Bengaluru Urban, Davanagere and Gadag districts. The State Government had, apparently, also failed to respond to the question of providing PPE kits to private hospitals and clinics.
An intervention application, filed by Advocate S Basvaraj, emphasized how the Centre’s Government E-Marketplace (GEM) Portal did not take registrations from private doctors and health workers for the procurement of PPE kits and other equipment. The Additional Solicitor General, representing the Union Government, in response to the aforementioned informed the Court that the Central Government had recently distributed 2,83,910 PPE kits and about 20 lakhs N-95 Masks to various states. He further sought some time to obtain instruction on the aspect.
The division bench granted the request, further directing the Union and the State Governments to clarify whether the GEM Portal can be accessed by the private health care workers to buy PPE Kits and other equipment. The State Government was also asked to respond, to the issue of salaries of paramedical and ASHA workers having not been released, on the next date of hearing set on 28th April, 2020. The Court sought an assurance that the nurses, paramedical staff or ASHA workers be not bereaved of their salaries.
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