Asks petitioners, BMC and state to come up with solutions by April 29

Sharmeen.Hakim

The Bombay High Court has directed the state and central governments to take serious note of multiple newspaper reports on how a single-minded focus on fighting Covid-19 is leaving critical patients with other ailments in the lurch.

Taking up three PILs filed by advocate Mehrwan Farshed, lawyer Muttahar Khan and environmentalist Dayanand Stalin on inadequate medical care services during the pandemic, Justice KR Shriram asked the petitioners as well as the respondents to offer their suggestions— and “come up effective solutions”—to the state health secretary and the Union ministry of health and family welfare. The state government and the BMC have been directed to file an affidavit on this by April 29. Other respondents include the Maharashtra Disaster Management Authority, the Directorate of Health Services, the Indian Medical Association, and the Public Health Foundation of India.

Khan, who appeared in person, cited a Mirror report from April 19 to highlight how a shortage of ambulances has crippled the city. Mumbai has only 60 ambulances dedicated to transporting Covid-19 patients. On April 17, a 55-year-old man from Kamathipura, suspected of having Covid-19, died after no ambulance turned up to take him to a hospital for five hours. In the nearby Nagpada, a Covid-19 patient who needed dialysis urgently had to wait more than 12 hours for an ambulance the following day.

Gaurav Srivastava, who appeared for Farshed, said that the Maharashtra disaster management plan is not being implemented in its true spirit. As per protocol, in case of an epidemic/pandemic, private medical institutions have to work in coordination with civic and state agencies. The plan also talks about community participation, but the petitions said no private participant, like NGOs, was consulted.

Srivastava cited a news report of a 56-year-old lawyer from Navi Mumbai, Jaideep Jaywant, who was refused admission in two hospitals earlier this week and subsequently succumbed to a cardiac arrest.

The petitioners referred to another news report of a man dying after being turned away from eight hospitals. They asked that the names of hospitals for Covid-19 as well a non-Covid-19 care be publicised well.

Senior counsel AY Sakhare, who appeared on behalf of the BMC, agreed the issue needs immediate attention, and said he would advise the civic body to file an affidavit on it by April 29, too. He asked the petitioners to offer suggestions the senior law officer in the BMC. It is at this point that the court asked that suggestions be sent to the state and the central governments as well.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the court since similar issues were already before the Supreme Court, the Centre should be exempted from filing an affidavit.

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