At war, so travel extra mile to keep corona warriors happy, SC tells Centre
The court was dealing with a petition by a doctor, Arushi Jain, who complained of inadequate quarantine facilities across the country.Updated: Jun 12, 2020 19:01 IST
Unpaid salaries to doctors and lack of quarantine facilities for healthcare workers engaged in fighting Covid-19 led the Supreme Court on Friday to remark that in a war-like situation, the Centre should travel the extra mile to ensure that corona warriors are kept safe and happy.
The court was dealing with a petition by a doctor, Arushi Jain, who complained of inadequate quarantine facilities across the country. Representing the petitioner, senior advocate KV Vishwanathan informed the Court that as per May 15, 2020 guidelines issued by the Health Ministry titled “Advisory for Managing Healthcare Workers working in Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 Areas of the Hospital”, only high-risk healthcare workers or those showing symptoms of the disease needed 14-day quarantine. He wondered how such a distinction could be made.
The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah said, “This is a kind of war (against the coronavirus pandemic). You cannot keep soldiers unhappy during a war. Travel the extra mile to make the corona warriors (doctors, nurses and medical staff) feel safe.”
Vishwanathan also informed the court that doctors working at government hospitals have not been paid wages. The situation is similar in several private hospitals where there has been a wage cut.
Noting these facts with concern, the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who attended the virtual court hearing through videoconferencing, “These issues should not engage our attention. It should be settled by you (Government). ”
Mehta submitted that the concerns expressed by the petitioner seemed to be ad-hoc. However, he informed the court that the petitioner can frame a representation highlighting their problems and the same will be addressed by the government.
The bench allowed the petitioner to file a representation highlighting their concerns and suggestions to the Union Health Secretary. The Centre was directed to consider the same and file a report in court by Wednesday, the next date of hearing.
Earlier, in response to the petition, the Centre had filed an affidavit claiming that conserving healthcare workforce was top most priority as the Government expected a surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the coming days.
“At some point of time in the near future, apart from existing hospitals, a large number of temporary make-shift hospitals will have to be created in order to accommodate Covid-19 patients requiring admission, medical care and treatment,” the Health Ministry affidavit stated.
In response to the Centre’s affidavit, the petitioner filed a reply stating that all healthcare workers serving in Covid-19 dedicated centres and hospitals, by default are under “high risk” category due to the infectious nature of this disease. The petitioner even requested the court to add states as parties to this case since the Centre had claimed that public health is a state subject.