Animal-like treatment -“Horrendous” “pathetic” situation in hospitals: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Friday tore into the Delhi government over the “sorry state of affairs” for treatment of COVID-19 patients at its hospitals here and also decreased testing, calling the situation in the national capital “horrendous, horrific and pathetic”.

Though the court issued notice and sought response of the Centre, the government of Delhi and four other states on treatment of coronavirus patients in state-run hospitals, the AAP government faced the ire of the judges over reports of “horrific scenes” at Delhi”s COVID-19 dedicated LNJP hospital where dead bodies lay in wards next to coronavirus patients.

Directing Chief Secretaries of the National Capital Territory(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 observed 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 dead bodies.

“We direct that the Chief Secretaries of the States shall immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients’ management in the Government hospitals 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.

Amid a spurt in COVID-19 cases in the national capital, the court also 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 9,535 beds including in private hospitals.

The Delhi government said it accepted the court’s observations with the “utmost respect and with absolute sincerity”.

“The Delhi government is determined to provide health care for all and to ensure best possible treatment to each COVID-19 patient. But, if there are any gaps that still remain and is brought to our notice we will act on them sincerely and immediately,” it said in a statement.

Delhi recorded 1,877 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its highest single-day spike, taking the tally in the city to over 34,000-mark, according to health authorities. The death toll stood at 1,085, they said. Delhi has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in India after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

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, and certain videos which indicate the pathetic condition of the patients admitted in the hospital and the deplorable condition of the wards”.

“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 2,000 beds”.

The situation in Delhi is “horrendous, horrific and pathetic”, it said.

The top court also wondered about the fewer COVID tests being conducted in Delhi and asked the government to ensure “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”.

Raising questions over poor patient care, disposal of dead bodies and fewer COVID-19 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 BJP and the Congress used the Supreme Court”s sharp comments on the Delhi government”s handling of COVID-19 cases to hit out at the ruling AAP.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the court”s comments are “worrisome” and show that the health infrastructure in the city has crumbled.

“This is not the time for any aggressive politics but to come together to rescue Delhi and to think of the city seriously. Shedding its negative politics, the Kejriwal government should work on the ground and be concerned about people of Delhi,” he said in a tweet.

Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar said the Supreme Court has “shown a mirror” to AAP government in Delhi over its “shortcomings” in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

In its order, the court 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.”

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.”

It also issued a notice to the 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-19 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.

On handling of the bodies of COVID-19 victims by states, 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

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