The Bombay High Court has said it is imperative that the Union government and the authorities in Maharashtra find an “effective solution” to ensure non-COVID-19 patients are not denied medical treatment at a time when the focus is on fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
Justice K R Sriram made the observation on Thursday while hearing three different petitions highlighting the plight of people suffering from several chronic or serious ailments, who the pleas said, are being turned away from clinics and hospitals.
The petitions also highlight issues such as lack of adequate facilities and medical infrastructure in state, municipal-run, and private hospitals in current times.
The judge said the authorities must take a serious note of the issues and directed the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to file a reply to the pleas by April 29.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, the counsel for the Centre, told the HC the Supreme court, too, was hearing a similar plea where the Union government would list necessary steps being taken.
Therefore, the Union governments reply was not required to be filed before the HC, Anil Singh said.
“I would expect the concerned to take these petitions very seriously and come (up) with an effective solution in their affidavits. Other respondents may also give their suggestions to
the Corporation/State Government/Central Government,” Justice Sriram said.
The pleas, filed by two advocates and a city activist, said that as per news reports and their own findings, several non-COVID patients were being denied admission ortreatment as medical staff feared the spread of coronavirus at their hospitals or clinics, or due to lack of doctors, technicians, medical staff, hospital beds, protective kits.
The petitioners cited several such instances before the court during the hearing. Advocate Gayatri Singh, the counsel for one of the petitioners, told the court that often when patients were turned away, it was not because there are not enough doctors or, medical staff.
“But such staff and doctors were not provided with protective gears and safety kits, among other things, to mitigate the risk of spread of coronavirus,” Gayatri Singh said.
The petitioners urged the HC to issue appropriate directions to ensure hospitals did not refuse admission of patients suffering from ailments other than COVID-19. One of the petitioners, advocate Mutahhar Khan, also urged the court to issue interim directions to the authorities to take adequate steps to provide ambulances to ferry needy patients from their homes to hospitals, dialysis centres.
Khan suggested that if required, the authorities could convert state-run buses or private mini buses into temporary ambulances for the purpose. The court said the petitioners could give their suggestions to the authorities to help them come up with appropriate measures to provide adequate medical assistance to all patients.
“In my view, this is an issue with which both the state and central government should be concerned with and therefore, petitioners may address their communications with
suggestions, if any, to the Health Secretary of the State Government at Mantralaya and to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Central Government,” Justice Sriram said.
BMC counsel Anil Sakhre told the court that the civic body realised this was an “important issue” and that it would file an appropriate reply.