Union home minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah during a road show for party candidates in Islampur, April 13, 2021. Photo: Twitter/@AmitShah/PTI

Covid-19 is a national calamity and a country-wide problem… Fundamental right guaranteed vide Article 21: the right to life which in its broad sweep also includes right to good health…Health care should not only be accessible but also be conveniently affordable to all the citizens. The core obligation of the State in securing the right to life to all its citizens is non-negotiable, the Court said.

It is sad that the elections are the priority of parties. They want votes but not voters’ health. Leaders do not bother about the dead waiting for cremation, while living are waiting for beds in hospitals, which are waiting for medicines and oxygen.

Telangana High Court was sarcastic in commenting that the government was harping on checking international passengers but was “beautifully silent” on its measures to control persons entering the State through bus stations, railway stations and private vehicles. The Chief Justice Hima Kohli specifically wanted to know if the government had issued any circulars to check foot-fall at cinema halls, banquet halls, malls and public places witnessing large congregations of people.

Chief Justice said that “it was a desperate situation and required desperate action by the State… Sorry for being tough, but it is a question of life and death of people”. Justice B Vijaysen Reddy asked the AG if the government had any problem in restricting the number of people thronging pubs and bars. The judge asked the government over hospitals not admitting persons who tested positive for coronavirus unless their condition was critical.

The Courts can only remind the duties of the government and explain the rights of the patients but cannot monitor the ICUs and hospitals like a Government. Private hospitals are fleecing the patients who are terrorised with covid.

There is shortage of oxygen, vaccine, ICU beds, injections of Remdesivir and above all the will and efficiency in the Centre and state governments in fighting the covid.

Every government and party is busy with fighting elections of some level. All leaders like sages in Kumbh Mela are not bothering about their role as virus spreading agents. One incident in MP has moved its High Court, is worth referring here.

Patient tied down to cot

Social media can be the platform for change and smart phone could be the instrument. On June 6, a viral video showed that an 80- year- old man was tied to the hospital bed, at Shajapur’s City Hospital, after he and his family were unable to clear hospital bills for treatment of Covid-19. The old man’s family alleged that the hospital administration tied his legs and hands to bed after he failed to pay Rs 11,000. “We had deposited a bill of Rs 5,000 at the time of admission but when the treatment took a few more days, we did not have the money to pay the bill,” said his daughter.

Based on this video, Senior Advocate Ashwini Kumar wrote a letter, which was taken note of and sent to MP High Court for suo moto notice. The Madhya Pradesh Government woke up and registered an FIR against that hospital, just to report to the High Court that ‘strong action’ is being taken. Chief Minister has promptly made a public statement that action will be initiated.

Meanwhile the hospital became humanitarian and waived off the entire balance fee. It claimed that he was tied because he was having convulsions because of electrolyte imbalance.

Then the High Court tried to educate the Government about the right to health of the people etc. There are umpteen number of judgments from our guardian of human rights – the Supreme Court- for the High Court judgement to remind the State governments about their Constitutional responsibilities. We have anyway, a wonderful provision in Ambedkar’s Constitution- Article 21 meaning of which was expanded to include the right to health and issued several directions. The Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Atul Sreedharan stated:

“The right to health can be secured to the citizens only if the State provides adequate measures for their treatment, healthcare and takes their care by protecting them from calamities like Coronavirus….Article 38, Article 39(e), Article 41 and Article 47 in Part-IV of the Constitution of India as well as the fundamental right guaranteed vide Article 21 of the Constitution of India deal with potent and substantive contents of the right to life which in its broad sweep also includes right to good health.”

Court reminded “The right of the citizen to adequate healthcare emanates from the dignity and sanctity of the human life which belongs to all of them. Health, besides being a fundamental right, is a basic human right, which no popular government can afford to negate. Health has its own prerequisites of social justice and equality and that it should be accessible to all….It includes the ability to obtain all kind of healthcare services including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases, management of health disorders, diseases and illness as also the management of other health impacting conditions. Such health care should not only be accessible but also be conveniently affordable to all the citizens. The core obligation of the State in securing the right to life to all its citizens is non-negotiable.”

Appreciating the efforts of state, the court cautioned that the State’s efforts should also reflect on the ground and the benefit thereof should reach the common man and so, the Court opined that it needs to work hard towards that aim and goal.

The Court also noticed the newspapers of the State during last week have been replete with the reports of incidents where either the patients are allegedly not being admitted or are being allegedly exploited by exorbitant charges by the private hospitals. Consequently, playing the role of a catalyst by reminding the State of its duties, for reassuring the people to continue to have faith in the system so as to revive their confidence, the Court issued many directions to MP. They are relevant for all states.

Court issued many directions :

The States shall ensure continuous and the regular supply of oxygen and Remdesivir not only to all the government hospitals, city hospitals, district hospitals but also to the private hospitals/nursing homes, which may give indent of their requirement of oxygen as well as Remdesivir in advance.

Reactivate all the hospitals as Covid care centres

Strengthen/augment all the district hospitals and city hospitals, to cater to the medical needs of middle class/lower middle class and poor/below poverty line families.

Rationalise the rates charged by the private hospitals/nursing homes and private pathological labs/ diagnostic centres for treatment/tests.

Display the data of the availability of normal beds, ICU beds, and ventilators on their websites in all the government hospitals and private hospitals/ nursing homes on a real-time basis.

Ensure all the private hospitals/nursing homes, chemists/medical shops to display the rates of Remdesivir per vial, separately for generic and branded injections, and all of them should be mandated not to charge more than the prescribed rates;

Create Covid Command and Control Centres and publicise easy access phone numbers for the Covid patients and their family members/attendants to use, complain and redressal.

Ensure the RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Testing by the government Laboratories as well as duly approved private pathological labs/diagnostic centres.

Increase per day testing number of Covid infected persons for their early detection so as to prevent further spread of Coronavirus.

Assure the test reports to concerned patients positively within 36 hours from the time of collection of sample.

Lastly, noting that this being a national calamity and a country-wide problem, the Court observed that the Central Government should consider stepping in to arrange the Oxygen firstly, by diverting the available stock of Liquid Medical Oxygen from the Steel Plants and other industries located in different parts of the country and secondly, if that is not sufficient, by importing the Oxygen.

The Court pointed out that the Remdesivir injection was being sold in the black market and certain arrests have also been made. “The Central Government should also consider to step in to ensure increase in the production of Remdesivir and till such time it is not done, it should consider procuring the Remdesivir by importing it”, the court said. This is the major crisis of the entire country including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

***

(Author Dr. Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu was a Professor at Nalsar University of Law in Hyderabad, former Central Information Commissioner and presently Professor of Law, at Bennett University, Greater Noida. )

Email:professorsridhar@gmail.com

Courtesy: Hans News Service 


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