Supreme Court asks Centre, state governments to ensure security of doctors
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued directions urging the central and state governments to ensure the safety and well-being of of doctors and medical staff, calling them the real warriors and the “first line of defence” in India’s fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Three PILs, filed by two practicing doctors - Dr Jerryl Banait and Dr. Arushi Jain -- and lawyer Amit Sahni, apprised a bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Ravindra Bhatt of the challenges faced by medical professionals in discharge of their duties. The petitions also highlighted the crunch in supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, N-95 mask, three-layer medical mask, head covers, and gowns. This, they said, was putting the health of medical staff under huge risks. The petitions also highlighted the recent incidents of violence against doctors and nurses.
The bench said, “Doctors and medical staff are the first line of defence of the country to combat with this pandemic and have to be protected by providing PPE as recommended by the World Health Organization on February 27, 2020.” The Court directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to make available PPE for all doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff.
The bench further asked the government to explore alternatives like augmenting domestic production of masks and gowns.
The Court took serious exception to the incident of stone-pelting on medical staff at Tatpatti Bakhal locality in Indore by miscreants on April 2. The bench said, “The pandemic which is engulfing the entire country is a national calamity….all citizens need to act in a responsible manner and extend a helping hand to medical staff to perform their duties.” With this, the court directed all states and police authorities to provide necessary security to the health care workers.
The Court allowed states to take action against anyone who obstructs medical staff or government officials engaged with COVID-19 duties.
Earlier in the day, when the matter was heard by Court through video conferencing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “The government will go the extra mile to augment security of doctors and hospitals.” Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for one of the petitioners raised concerns about a possible cut in doctors’ salary for procuring PPE. Mehta said that the Director General of Health Services will issue instructions to private hospitals directing against such measures. He assured that action will be taken against any hospitals found violating this order.