Treatment of the dead in Covid-19 hospitals deplorable: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has asked five states to submit detailed status reports on the government hospitals treating Covid-19-infected people, patient care and details of the staff and infrastructure in the hospitals before June 17Updated: Jun 13, 2020, 02:09 IST
An angry Supreme Court on Friday rebuked states and hospitals across the country for the callous and insensitive manner in which they were treating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients and the bodies of those who had fallen victim to the disease, issuing notices to the central government and five states — Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — in a suo motu (on its own) case initiated by the apex court.
It was especially harsh on the Delhi government and the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) hospital in the city-state, referring to the condition of patients in the hospital as “pathetic”and its wards as “deplorable” . “The duty of the state of NCT Delhi does not end in informing the people that it has arranged 5,814 beds in government hospitals and 9,535 beds including private hospitals. The state and its officers are duty-bound to ensure that patients are taken care (of)... and hospitals have necessary infrastructure and staff,” it said in its order.
A Delhi government spokesperson said the administration accepted the Supreme Court’s observations with utmost respect and with absolute sincerity. “The Delhi government is determined to provide health care for all and to ensure best possible treatment to each Covid-19 patient. But if there are any gaps that still remain and is brought to our notice, we will act on them sincerely and immediately.”
The spokesperson said it was an extraordinary situation and the Delhi government was trying its best. “The front line workers in our hospitals, our doctors and nursing staff, are working day and night to serve the people...”
A three-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan asked the five states to submit detailed status reports on the government hospitals treating Covid-19-infected people, patient care and details of the staff and infrastructure in the hospitals before June 17, when the case will be taken up next for hearing.
“Covid-19 patients are treated worse than animals. In one case, a dead body was found in garbage,” the bench, which also comprised justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah, remarked during the hearing of the case.
The Supreme Court registered on Thursday the suo motu case over issues surrounding the treatment of Covid-19 patients and handling of the bodies of Covid-19 victims in hospitals. Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde took cognisance of media reports highlighting the issue and assigned the matter to the three-judge bench.
“We direct that the chief secretaries of the states shall immediately take appropriate notice of the status of patients’ management in the government hospital in their respective states and take remedial action. Status reports with regard to government hospitals, patient care and the details of the staff, infrastructure, etc. should be brought before the court so that appropriate directions can be issued by the court as found necessary on the next date of hearing,” the order passed by the court said.
The bench also expressed concern over reduced testing of samples in the national capital and described the situation in Delhi as “horrific”.
LNJP hospital is a dedicated Covid hospital with 2,000 beds out which only 870 beds are occupied.
“The patients are in the wards and the dead bodies are also in the same wards. Dead bodies are seen also in the lobby and waiting area. The patients were not supplied with any oxygen support or any other support, no saline drips were shown with the beds and there was no one to attend the patients. Patients are crying and there is no one to attend to them,” the court noted in its order.
The court issued notice to LNJP Hospital as well. The director or medical superintendent of LNJP Hospital has to offer an explanation about the state of affairs in the hospital highlighted by the media
Commenting on the court’s observation on the LNJP health facility, the Delhi government spokesperson said it was the biggest Covid-19 hospital in Delhi and “right now around 2,000 beds are operational there for the coronavirus patients”.
“Many critical patients from the central government and the private hospitals in Delhi are being referred to LNJP Hospital for better medication. So far, over 2100 patients from LNJP hospital have successfully recovered from Covid-19 infection and returned to their homes,” the spokesperson said.
“National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an autonomous body and their team visited the LNJP hospital on Thursday. They expressed their satisfaction after scrutinising facilities at the hospital. We will appraise the honourable Supreme Court about this as well,” the spokesperson added.
According to the Delhi Corona app, there are 5,814 beds for Covid-19 patients in Delhi’s government hospitals out of which only 2,620 beds are occupied. Despite that, patients suffering from Covid-19 are running around desperately for admission in hospitals.
“The large number of beds in government Covid-19 hospitals being vacant in a situation where patients suspected of Covid-19 are running from pillar to post to get admission in any hospital tells about the mismanagement and sorry state of government hospitals in Delhi,” the order said.
The court’s order also mentioned “the grim situation in other states also, more particularly, in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Gujarat.”
The court also took note of the insensitive manner in which bodies of Covid-19 patients were being handled by hospitals in violation of a directive issued by the central government on March 15.
“The patients’ relatives are not even informed for several days about the death of the patient as has been reported in the media. It is also brought to our notice that the details of cremation as to when the dead body will be cremated are not even informed to their close relatives due to which the families of the patients are not even able to see the dead bodies or attend their last funeral rites,” the order said.
In a text reply, Bhushan Gagrani, principal secretary and member of Maharashtra’s task force to handle the Covid-19 crisis, who is authorised to speak on behalf of the government, said, “We can comment when the state government examines the order and decides on an appropriate response.”
In West Bengal, senior Trinamool Congress leader and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Tapas Roy said, “The Supreme Court did not make any observation on West Bengal. It has served a notice to the state, seeking its reply. The court’s observations were related to Delhi and Tamil Nadu.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal was critical. “The Bengal government does not wake up as long it is not pulled up by the judiciary,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
A senior official from the Tamil Nadu directorate of public health, who did not want to be named, said: “We keep on expanding services based on the expected numbers. There is no shortage at any point of time.”