While reminding the Central and State governments that it is their obligation to uphold the right to life of citizens, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday passed a set of directions to increase the number of hospital beds and availability of oxygen and Remdesivir for COVID-19 patients in the State.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar opined,
“Before we go into the issue, it is important to remind Centre and State and other agencies to fulfil their obligations to preserve the Right to life under Article 21. Today, we are dealing with extra ordinary situation. Those who are infected look up to State to provide them with best possible treatment and healthcare. COVID is such a disease that requires specialised treatment. Necessary for us to remind Centre and State, it is their obligation to provide best possible treatment to all. They are ultimately dealing with Fundamental Right of Right of Life.”
Below are the key directions passed by the Court.
Increasing beds for COVID-19 patients
- The Court directed Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and State to take immediate steps to contact officers and take over all beds which can be made available for people. Similar steps to be taken in Mysuru and Hubli.
- State to immediately hold meeting with Army and Air Force officers to increase facilities for COVID-19.
- Those who do not have to be hospitalized but have no isolation facilities, will have to be encouraged to utilize COVID-19 centres.
- State and BBMP to consider making available COVID-19 centres for those patients who do not require hospitalisation but wish to remain isolated.
State of “Preparedness”
- All authorities under the Disaster Management Act (DM Act) are under obligation to be in state of preparedness.
- State will have to be in state of preparedness by keeping ready an estimate of beds required in Bengaluru and in other districts.
- State to place on record the steps taken to estimate the number of beds required and enhance the capacity of beds.
- State to place on record the criteria for restricting demand of Remdesivir in private hospitals. Such criteria has to be rational and stand the test of Article 14.
- State to make an estimate of quantum of vials of Remdesivir required in all hospitals and submit a requisition in this regard to the Centre.
- Court further directed the Centre to consider the request of State for increasing allocation of Remdesivir to Karnataka and take a decision immediately.
- State and BBMP has been directed to display contact number of Deputy Drugs Controller outside the helpdesk of every hospital so that relatives/patients can get Remdesivir if it is not available in the respective hospitals.
- Decision of the Centre on increasing cap of Remdesivir and oxygen is to be submitted by May 3.
Food security, relief to unorganised workers
- Issue of food security, relief to workers will require urgent attention
- Effect of lockdown on weaker sections of the society and unorganised labour will have to be assessed.
- It will be appropriate if Advocate General convenes a meeting of various stakeholders so that State can assess situation of weaker sections.
- State to come out with concrete steps to help weaker sections of society by providing ration etc.
The Court noted that it had earlier directed BBMP and the State to set up information help desks in every hospital. It thus directed the State to immediately report on the implementation of the same. The helpdesk shall deal with grievances surrounding non-availability of hospital beds, among other issues.
These directions were passed during the hearing of a case registered suo motu by the Court after it received two letters highlighting various difficulties faced by COVID-19 positive patients in the State.
During the hearing, the Court was informed that 75% of the patients were not getting Remdesivir in the State. Further, the Court was apprised that the demand for Remdesivir is approximately 3 lakh vials for a month, but State is receiving only 1.82 lakh vials from the Centre.
This prompted the Court to direct the State to request the Centre for more vials of Remdesivir.
The Court was told that the maximum allotted utilization of Oxygen in Karnataka is 802 MT per day.
Counsel for the State Advocate Vikram Huilgol informed the Court that Karnataka has a massive supply of oxygen as against demand. However, the Centre decides on the amount of oxygen to be used.
“If there is excess, we are directed to give to other states“, said Huilgol.
In this light, the Court directed the State to send a requisition to the Centre on increasing the levels of Oxygen for the State.
Before parting with the order, the Court recorded its appreciation towards various officers of State, doctors, and nurses, stating that they have been doing “an excellent job” in terms of treating COVID-19 patients as well as curbing the deadly virus.
The Court also clarified that though the directions are issued for the city of Bengaluru, the same will have to be implemented in other districts where there is a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The matter will be next heard on May 5.