Are Gujarat Minister, Secretary aware of patient deaths, asks Gujarat HC
Gandhinagar, May 24, 2020
The Gujarat High Court on Saturday lambasted the state's healthcare system, especially in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, and hit out at Health Minister Nitin Patel and the Health Secretary, asking whether both knew patients were dying due to lack of ventilators at the hospital.
The court, in its interim order, said: "We wonder how many times the Health Minister has visited the Civil Hospital to take stock of the situation? Does he have any idea of the problems faced by the patients and even the employees working there? The same goes for the Health Secretary. Is the state government even aware of the hard fact that patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of ventilators? How does the government prepare itself to tackle this problem of ventilators?"
"It is distressing to know that most patients admitted the hospital are dying within 4 to 5 days of treatment, which indicates a complete lack of critical care," observed the court.
The reasons could be inadequate patient care, senior doctors did not visit the hospital and left treatment to resident doctors, and health and hygiene were not maintained due to indisciplined staff down the line.
The High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter.
It directed the state to take action regarding the present situation, especially at the Civil Hospital which has reported 62% of the total coronavirus deaths in Gujarat.
The High Court directed the state government to set up on a war-footing a computerized control centre with real-time information of each facility across the state and make it accessible to everyone, including the public. It should be connected to each facility and each computer as well as to the phones.
All government ambulances should be connected to this control centre and all complaints and grievances also be directed to it.
The HC directed the government to appoint its representative at each state hospital for coordination and to remain in direct and constant touch with the control centre.
The government was also told that a website control centre should be created for everyone to know about its activities regarding the coronavirus situation.
It categorically asserted that the government ensure that no patient was made to run from one hospital to another to beg for admission. "This has happened in the past and is still happening," the court remarked.
The court ordered that all government hospitals with more than 50 beds and ICUs in Gujarat be immediately converted into dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.
The state government was directed to provide high-quality N95 masks, sanitisers, sterile and non-sterile gloves, PPE kits, high-flow oxygen masks, ventilator tubing and fittings to all COVID-19 facilities at its own expense.
The court directed the Gujarat government to immediately procure maximum test kits to enable even the private labs and hospitals to test at government rates. The government was directed that it should ensure no private hospitals demanded treatment cost in advance from the patients.
The state was asked to frame a policy on the lines of Maharashtra, wherein all general physicians were asked to run their own clinics or else serve in government COVID-19 hospitals.
The court also directed for punitive action against ward boys who left patients unattended and to fix accountability of senior officials who failed to improve healthcare at the Civil Hospital. Non-performing doctors at the Civil Hospital be immediately transferred to other districts, it said.
In its interim order, the court also directed railway authorities to waive one-way fare charged from migrant labourers. In the alternative, the state governments could bear the expenses.
The court also asked the state government to ensure that all closed private clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes should be immediately reopened to supplement healthcare facilities for non-corona patients.
The court directed that all those released on temporary bail from jails on the recommendation of a high-powered committee continue to remain on bail for further 45 days.
The case is scheduled for further hearing on May 29. The Gujarat government has been asked to file an exhaustive report with respect to all the directions and suggestions issued by the High Court. It said it expected the government to file this report one day in advance.