Non-availability of Ventilators and ICU is not a valid reason to deny admission to the Hospital [COVID-19]: Bombay High Court

 The state is duty-bound to make all infrastructural and medical facilities available to save the life of people affected or likely to be affected by Coronavirus held by Justice R.K. Deshpande and Justice Smt. Pushpa V. Gandediwala in the case of Court in its own Motion Vs. Union of India through its secretary and Ors., (R) [Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation No.4 of 2020].

It was observed by the Hon’ble Court that the main issue which requires our immediate attention was of making the ventilators and oxygenated beds available to the patients of moderate and severe conditions so as to reduce the death rate. The people were required to travel from one Hospital to another with serious patients and for want of accommodation, the newspaper report showed that the deaths were occurring. They must note with regret that for want of medical aid, the people were falling pray to Corona Virus. So, therefore, thought that without going into the legal niceties, an immediate arrangement could be worked out to reduce the death rate. Hence, they tried to work out the solution.

 The Hon’ble Court while examining the issue of non-availability of beds observed that “The problem of non-availability of the medical and para-medical staff can also not be a problem to deny the admission in the hospital to the patients. Even private Doctors are under obligation to provide the treatment. The preservation of human life is of paramount importance. Once life is lost, it cannot be restored. Every Doctor whether he is in Government or Semi-Government Hospitals or private professional is under obligation to extend his services with due expertise for protecting life. Even private Doctors cannot refuse to render their services during pandemics in all such Hospitals where they are called or their services are needed. Similar is the position in respect of para-medical staff. It is the obligation on the State to secure adequate para-medical staff from all such sources as are available and non-availability of it cannot be countenance.”

The Hon’ble Court quoted the portion of the observations of the Apex Court in paras 8, 14 and 15 of the decision in the case of Pt. Parmanand Katara versus Union of India [1989 (4) SCC 286]. Article 21 of the Constitution casts the obligation on the State to preserve life.

It was also pronounced by Hon’ble Court that the judges and the lawyers have made themselves available 24×7 to serve the causes in the pandemic situations and there would be nothing wrong to expect the medical and paramedical staff to be available 24×7 in this pandemic situation.

 It was held by the Hon’ble Court that “We do not want a situation to occur where the patients are required to travel from one Hospital to another to secure the position in ICU, ventilated beds or oxygenated beds or due to non-availability of the services of medical and para-medical staff. If any patient requires medical assistance and approaches any Hospital or DCHC where such facility is not available for any reason whatsoever, such Hospitals or DCHCs should immediately make a necessary enquiry and help the patient to reach the proper destination. It shall be the duty of the Municipal Commissioner and the Task Force to see that all the Hospitals and DCHCs should provide the information and contact numbers of the Hospitals where such facilities can be easily made available and the patients are not required to travel from pillar to post. We have seen the affidavit of the Municipal Commissioner and we find that such responsibility is shouldered by the Municipal Commissioner. We also expect the Task Force to spring in action to supervise the infrastructural facilities and manpower in the Hospitals and DCHCs.”

Finally, the decision came and they made it clear that there should be no prohibition for the patients of COVID-19 to had a consultation with the Doctor of their choice who could visit and examine the patient anywhere in any Hospital or DCHC and advised investigation and medication. This will reduce the responsibilities of others.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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