Published: 12th June 2020
SC seeks response of Centre, states on treatment of COVID-19 patients, handling of bodies
Status report with regard to Government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc. should be brought before the court so that appropriate directions be issued
Taking note of the reports of horrific scenes at Delhi's COVID-19 dedicated LNJP hospital where bodies are being stacked next to coronavirus patients, the Supreme Court said on Friday that it indicated the sorry state of affairs in government hospitals.
The top court also directed Chief Secretaries of the NCT, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Gujarat to take "remedial action" ensuring proper management of patients at hospitals.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah issued notices to the Centre and the four states observing that apart from Delhi, the situation was grim at the hospitals there as well vis-a-vis treatment of coronavirus patients and handling of the bodies.
"We direct that the Chief Secretaries of the States shall immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients' management in the Government hospital in their respective States and take remedial action.
Status report with regard to Government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc. should be brought before the court so that appropriate directions be issued by the court as found necessary on the next date of hearing," it said.
On handling of the bodies of COVID-19 victims, the top court said there was no proper adherence to the guidelines of the health ministry and the hospitals are not giving due care and concern to the dead bodies.
"The patients' relatives are not even informed for several days of the death of the patient as has been reported in the media.
It is also brought to our notice that the details of cremation as to when the dead body will be cremated are not even informed to their close relatives.
Due to which the families of the patients are not even able to see the dead bodies or attend their last funeral rites," it said.
The top court also wondered about the fewer COVID tests being conducted in Delhi and asked the government to ensure that there should be steep increase in the testing both by Government hospitals and private labs as non-testing of the patients is not a solution to the problem.
It also issued a notice to LNJP hospital and sought its Director's response by June 17 on the poor state of affairs after taking note of the fact that only 870 of its COVID beds, out of 2,000, have been occupied as on June 11 when people are running from one hospital to another to get patients admitted.
The bench said the duty of the Delhi government does not end by informing the citizens that it has arranged 5,814 beds in Government hospitals and 9535 beds including private hospitals.
Raising questions over poor patients' care, disposal of dead bodies and lesser number of COVID testing, it said, "All these facts, which have been brought to the notice of the court by the media reports, clearly indicate a very sorry state of affairs of the patients of COVID-19 in the Government hospitals in the NCT of Delhi as well as in other states".
The apex court said it has taken cognizance of the issue on the basis of media reports presenting horrific scenes from LNJP hospital, which is a COVID dedicated hospital. In its programme on June 10, 2020, has shown certain videos which indicate the pathetic condition of the patients admitted in the hospital and the deplorable condition of the wards.
The bench further said: The patients are in the wards and the dead bodies are also in the same wards.
Dead bodies are seen also in the lobby and waiting area.
The patients were not supplied with any oxygen support or any other support, no saline drips were shown with the beds and there was no one to attend the patients.
Patients are crying and there is no one to attend them.
This is the condition of the Government Hospital of Delhi which has capacity of 2000 beds.
The top court's order said the situation in Delhi is "horrendous, horrific and pathetic".
It dealt in detail with the situation of Delhi and said that as per the government's App, the number of beds in government hospitals are 5,814 and out of them, only 2,620 are occupied.
The reports also indicate that the patients suffering from COVID-19 are running from pillar to post to get admission in the hospitals whereas large numbers of beds are lying vacant in Government hospitals.
The large number of beds in Government COVID Hospital being vacant in a situation where patients suspected of COVID-19 are running from pillar to post to get admission in any hospital tells about the mismanagement and sorry state of Government hospitals in Delhi, the order said.
The pathetic condition of the patients and improper care and treatment of the patients shown by the media has pained this court.
The State on whom the duty lies to take care of the health of its citizens cannot abdicate its responsibility of ensuring that all hospitals including Government hospitals take care of the COVID-19 patients, the order said.
Referring to the testing data of other states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, it said, We do not understand why the tests have gone down in the State of NCT Delhi.
Non-testing of the patients is not a solution to the problem rather increase in the testing facility is the duty of the State, so that people may come to know about their health status regarding COVID-19 and they may take appropriate care and treatment of COVID-19.