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Gujarat High Court lambasts health minister, secretary for poor handling of COVID-19 crisis

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The Gujarat High Court has lambasted the state government for its poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the shoddy state of affairs in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital that has accounted for the maximum number of COVID-19 related deaths.

During the hearing of multiple petitions concerning the COVID-19 crisis in Gujarat, the division bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh Vora also came down heavily on health minister Nitin Patel and health secretary Jayanti Ravi.

“We wonder, how many times the Health Minister of the State has visited the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad so as to keep a watch or take stock of what is going on at the Civil Hospital. Does the Health Minister of the State of Gujarat has any idea about the problems which the patients, doctors, nursing staff, and other employees are facing as on date? How many times the Health Minister has interacted with the Medical Officers and other staff members in person so as to understand their difficulties and problems?,” the bench mentioned in its order.

The court also remarked: “We wonder whether the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has any idea as to what is going on in the Civil Hospital? We wonder how many times the Chief Secretary of the Health Department has paid visit to the Civil Hospital? Is the State Government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of a lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the State Government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?”

The court, while entertaining an anonymous letter written by a resident doctor of the Civil Hospital exposing the irregularities, said Civil Hospital has turned out to be even worse than a dungeon and unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option. It directed the government to take up the crisis at Civil Hospital seriously or the court will be forced to do a video conferencing with all doctors of the hospital to ascertain their difficulties and problems.

The high court directed the government to immediately transfer the doctors to other districts who are not performing, to strictly deal with unions of class III and IV employees, improve the working condition of resident doctors, fix the accountability of senior officers who failed to improve healthcare at the hospital, increase the number of ventilators and oxygen beds, and take punitive action against ward boys for leaving patients unattended.

The court has also directed the state government to ensure the availability of at least one ambulance outside quarantine centres so that patients can be immediately shifted to a hospital during an emergency. The division bench has also directed that no patient should be made to run from one hospital to another for admission.

The bench has also directed the government to file an exhaustive report on the directions issued before the next hearing on May 29.

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