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HC directs Gujarat govt not to insist on prior approval for COVID-19 testing in private labs

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The Gujarat High Court has ordered the state government not to insist on prior approval for carrying out COVID-19 confirmatory tests by private hospitals and laboratories on patients requiring urgent surgeries, undergoing critical treatment related to haemodialysis, and other emergency surgeries including child delivery.

The court has said such procedures cannot wait for permission from the state health authorities, which usually takes 2-4 days for entertaining such requests forwarded by private hospitals.

“If the approval is awaited and then testing is conducted, it could result into a disastrous situation for the patients as also the consulting doctor and paramedical staff,” the division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala remarked.

The court has also clarified that apart from the above categories, all other categories of patients would require an approval from the district health administration. It, however, directed the government to ensure that such an approval should be granted within 24 hours of making a request.

The remarks came after a petition was filed by the Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA) questioning the COVID-19 testing policy.

The high court has also impleaded the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)—the country’s apex body that decides treatment and testing guidelines for COVID-19—in the case and sought a report from it explaining the rationale behind its testing policy.  The court has also questioned ICMR on whether the guidelines issued by it are statutory in nature and whether such guidelines are binding upon state governments or they are recommendatory in nature.

AMA has requested the court to set-aside the testing policy of the state government under which private laboratories have to seek prior approval from Sola Civil Hospital or health department before conducting an RT-PCR test for COVID-19. AMA has claimed that the district health officer usually takes between two and four days to respond to the request and a delay in getting the approval could prove to be fatal in many cases.

People who can’t help have no right to criticise Gujarat govt for COVID-19 crisis: HC