The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre and the Delhi government to work in tandem to ensure that pregnant women and their family members in coronavirus hotspots face no barriers during the lockdown.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, which conducted the hearing through video conferencing, directed the Delhi government to ensure that the helpline number proposed to be set up within two days for assisting senior citizens during the pandemic are also made available for pregnant women.
“The helpline number shall be publicised adequately in the newspapers and the social media as also through the Delhi Police, wherever possible,” the court order said.
“Union of India and Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi shall work in tandem to make sure that no barriers are faced by pregnant ladies and their family members residing in hot spots during the lockdown,” said the order passed on April 22 and uploaded on the court’s website this afternoon.
The court passed the order while disposing of a petition by charitable trust SAMA – Resource Group For Women and Health claiming denial of healthcare and delivery/child birth services to pregnant women in Delhi and the barriers faced by them and their families in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown declared by the central and state governments.
The court noted that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs for enabling delivery of essential health services during the pandemic, which include care during pregnancy and child birth, besides prevention and management of communicable diseases, treatment of chronic diseases to avoid complications and for addressing other emergencies.
Petitioner’s advocate Vrinda Grover submitted that the government has directed all frontline workers of sub-health and wellness centres to maintain a list of persons to whom essential services have to be extended, like pregnant women and those who have recently delivered infants.
She also said auxiliary nursing mid-wives (ANM) and Asha workers must ensure that pregnant women in the last trimester are contacted to ascertain their status. She contended that despite extensive guidelines laid down by the Centre, services on ground are not readily available.
The petition sought direction for proper coordination between the concerned departments of the Centre and Delhi government so that a nodal officer is appointed in every COVID-19 hotspot, whose contact number is made public and a dedicated helpline is set up for pregnant women seeking essential health services, which includes arranging transportation to and from the hospital and securing movement passes.
Advocate Anupam Srivastava, representing Delhi government, told the court that the authorities have no objection if the helpline proposed to be set up for senior citizens, in terms of an earlier order of the high court, is also made available for pregnant women to access medical facilities and to arrange transportation for them to visit hospitals for check-ups, delivery and post-delivery consultation.
He also said a sufficient number of Asha workers and ANMs will be made available so that they can reach pregnant women, particularly those who are in the high risk category for a follow up and in the last trimester.
Central government standing counsel Rajesh Gogna assured the court that necessary compliances shall be made and the coordination between the Asha workers and ANMs shall be seamless.