The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to make sure each and every patient reaching a designated COVID-19 hospital is attended to and given preliminary treatment even if beds are not available. The court heard a PIL online on Tuesday and a detailed copy of its order was made available on Thursday.
A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia also directed the state government to find alternatives for manufacturing medical oxygen to save coronavirus patients. It was hearing a PIL taken up suo motu (on its own) on the COVID-19 situation in Gujarat, which has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases over the last few weeks.
The bench raised concern over government-run and designated COVID-19 hospitals in Ahmedabad attending only to patients coming in the EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute)-run ‘108’ ambulances and ignoring those brought in private vehicles. “The state government and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) were aware that there is a shortage of 108 ambulances and if that was so, then what justification can there be if patients reach the hospital in their privately arranged vehicles," the court said.
“We accordingly direct that all the government, corporation, designated and private hospitals attend to all patients reaching them. Patients cannot be left unattended," the bench said in its order. It said though the admission in a hospital would be subject to availability of beds, “a preliminary needed treatment should be given and thereafter the parties may be advised further course of action".
While noting that the Gujarat government has already sent a request to the Centre for allocation of more medical oxygen, the HC asked the state “to speed up and find other alternatives for the manufacture of oxygen for medical use". “The PSA plants which are not functional to be made functional at the earliest…As much as possible oxygen should be made available within the state in addition to the central allocation so that there is no shortfall of oxygen," the bench suggested.
It also directed the AMC to withdraw its April 5 order which declared that Ahmedabad residents who have visited other states for work will not be required to undergo RT-PCR tests upon their return to the city. The court said the AMC’s announcement was in contravention to the state government’s March 27 order, according to which a negative RT-PCR test certificate is compulsory for those travelling to Gujarat from other states.
The HC has posted the PIL for next hearing on May 4. On Wednesday, Gujarat registered 14,120 new cases of COVID-19, while 174 people succumbed to the infection, the highest single-day fatalities so far.
With the addition of 14,120 new patients, the state’s tally of coronavirus cases has gone up to 5,38,845, while the death toll has reached 6,830, as per the health department.