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HC lambasts Gujarat govt, says people can’t be left to die outside hospitals for not coming in 108 ambulance

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The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday blasted the state government left, right and centre for its failure to manage the COVID-19 crisis in the state that is aggravating with each passing day.

The division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia said that the state government has painted a rosy picture in its response (affidavit) to the court, but that does not reflect the ground reality that is being reported everyday everywhere.

Responding to tall claims made by the state government, the bench said, “Everything is on paper. A patient dies because of lack of attention outside a hospital because he has not come in a 108 ambulance.” The court went on to rebuke the government saying, “You cannot sit on an Ivory Tower and decide we will solve this crisis like this. Your affidavit does not reflect the ground reality.”

HC directs govt to attend to all patients arriving at hospitals

The high court has directed the state to attend to all patients who are coming to hospitals, irrespective of the vehicle they are coming in. They should be attended by a team of doctors who can access their medical condition to ascertain whether they need admission or can be treated at home.

The court also rebuked the government over the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation notification that provided that only citizens of Ahmedabad will be treated in AMC hospitals.  The court directed the state government to notify all civic bodies that they cannot come up with such a notification that is in contravention to the state government guidelines.

The court noted the fact that several people from other districts also come to Ahmedabad for treatment and they cannot be denied that just because they are not a resident of the city.  The court also asked the state government to direct all civic bodies to ensure that whenever a patient turns up at the hospital run by them, they should be attended by doctors.

Gujarat Govt receives flak for poor future planning

The court also lambasted the state government for not adhering to its earlier suggestion of creating a triage at every hospital to segregate the inflow of patients based on their criticality. When the government said that queues outside hospitals are inevitable due to the high inflow of patients, the bench questioned about the state’s planning to combat the surge in cases in the coming weeks.

The court remarked, “What will happen on May 1 when the patients are going to double? All patients will not be attended and they will be allowed to die. Are you ready for it? Is it the way the system is working? There is a projection of half-a-million cases in the next 15 days and what are your preparations? Nothing.”

When the state’s counsel said that the hospital at GMDC ground in Ahmedabad is its preparation, the bench again rebuked the government.

“GMDC cannot take care of 30,000 patients. What about the entire state? It is just for Ahmedabad what about the rest of the state. We are not getting figures about the rest of the state. You are arguing only for Ahmedabad. Are you not representing only AMC?” the court questioned advocate general Kamal Trivedi.

The advocate general said that a host of issues are arising with respect to Ahmedabad. The court again interrupted him and said that the situation is the same across the state and people are running from pillar to post to get a hospital bed, oxygen and Remdesivir.

State says Centre is controlling oxygen, Remdesivir

The court also said that people are forced to pay 10 times the original price for an oxygen cylinder. The state said that it cannot order the bottlers to give it to the state government as the Centre is controlling oxygen supply. To this, the court said, “Then why are bottlers giving it to private people? What is the system doing?”

Earlier during the hearing, the advocate general submitted that Gujarat was in a comfortable position as far as supply of oxygen was concerned. However, the Centre has taken over the oxygen supply and the demand for oxygen has considerably increased. He said that as against a demand of 57 MT on March 15, the demand has increased to 1,092 MT on April 26.

Also Read: Night curfew imposed in 9 more cities in Gujarat, additional restrictions imposed

The government also submitted that all its oxygen equipped beds are occupied in the state and there are hardly 50 beds left.

Manpower crisis

The government also submitted to the court that it is facing shortage of manpower and has appealed to doctors and specialist doctors to join its fight against COVID at a good salary. The government said that despite opening a 900-bed hospital at GMDC, the authorities could admit only 127 patients on Monday.

It said that the speed with which it wants to increase health infrastructure for the battle against COVID-19 is affected by the shortage of oxygen, Remdesivir and doctors.

The court asked the state government to involve final year medical and nursing students to meet the shortage of manpower.

Ambulance

The state government submitted that it is adding 300 more ambulances to its 108 fleet of 687 ambulances in the state. The government said 4 hours 37 minutes is the average response time of 108 ambulance service in the state—a figure which was disputed by many other lawyers who were part of the proceedings.

Next hearing

The next hearing of the matter is scheduled on May 4. The state government has been asked to act on the directions issued by the government and come up with more information with regards to how it plans to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the days to come.  The state has been also directed to ensure that hospitals display a board outside their gate reflecting details about bed availability.

 

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