‘Doctors on Covid duty working continuously’ says SC; suggests giving breaks to them

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court observed that doctors engaged in COVID-19 duty are working continuously and suggested that they must be given a break after continuous service.

A bench headed by Justice Bhushan, while hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the proper treatment of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and mishandling of dead bodies, observed that continuous work might be affecting the mental health of doctors engaged in COVID-19 duty.

“It has come to our attention that doctors are working without any break. They are doctors, not poppers… You must give them a break after continuous service,” the bench said.

“For the last seven-eight months, doctors have not been given any break and are continuously working. You (Solicitor General) take instruction and think over giving them some break. It must be very painful and might be affecting their mental health,” it added.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the Central government will consider giving some break to doctors.

During the hearing, Mehta said a similar order like the Gujarat High Court imposing community service mandate for violation of social distancing and mask protocols has been passed by Allahabad High Court and an appeal has been filed against it by the government.

Justice Bhushan also asked about the implementation of the mask-wearing protocol and social distancing measures. Mehta replied that only fines can be a deterrent and Rs 500 fine is not a deterrent enough. Mehta said that Gujarat has collected Rs 80 to 90 crores as fine.

The bench expressed shock that the Gujarat government has levied around Rs 90 crores fine for not wearing face masks, but has not been able to enforce the guidelines on COVID-19 to wear masks and social distancing.

The bench also perused the affidavit filed by the State governments and said that the affidavit do not say which hospitals have fire no-objection certificates.

“None of the states have stated the number of covid hospitals and whether there is any protocol being followed. Some of them talking about 2016,” said Justice MR Shah. The court then posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

Earlier, the top court had sought response from the Centre as well as states on issues ranging from adhering to COVID-19 guidelines on wearing of face masks and social distancing norms. It had also sought their responses on fire safety measures in hospitals after incidents of fire in COVID-19 dedicated hospitals.

Recently, it had also taken cognizance of the fire incident in a designated COVID-19 hospital in Gujarat’s Rajkot in which several patients had died, raising the issue of lack of proper fire safety measures in hospitals across the country. It had sought an inquiry report from the Gujarat government on the Rajkot incident and asked other states to file reports on fire incidents.

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