Provide more ventilators, beds in Covid Centres: High Court

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The HP High Court today directed the state government to increase the number of ventilators and beds in Covid hospitals/ Covid health centres and also increase the distribution of oximeters among coronavirus patients, who require them.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice L. Narayana Swamy and Justice Anoop Chitkara passed the orders on a petition taken up suo moto as public interest litigation (PIL) on a news item published in The Tribune on November 10, 2020, under headline “IGMC Covid ward packed to capacity after spurt in cases”.

The court in its earlier order had issued a notice to the government and directed it to make submissions about the steps taken in this regard.

Advocate General Ashok Sharma submitted that proper treatment was being given to Covid patients in the state and they were not facing hardships. He submitted the district wise/ hospital wise vacancy position of beds in different Covid hospitals/ medical colleges in the state, in a tabulated form. He stated that there are 2,401 vacant beds for Covid patients in Dedicated Covid Care Centres in Bilaspur, Chamba, Hamirpur, Kangra, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lahaul and Spiti, Mandi, Shimla, Sirmaur, Solan and Una districts and 2,583 isolation beds (including ICU beds) in Dedicated Covid Care Centres in the state.

Amicus Curiae BC Negi, senior advocate, said that providing adequate medical services to the people was a constitutional obligation of the state. Short-term economic gains could not be allowed to endanger long-term public health and welfare, he added, and suggested regulation of the entry of tourists and outsiders into the state. He also gave suggestions such as to increase testing and contact tracing; online training and protocols to help impart training to frontline workers; active, free and massive screening; encouraging e-commerce; considering time-specific restrictions on economic activities; encouraging e-learning but ensuring availability of adequate infrastructure; odd-even (valley-mountain side) scheme for shops in marketplaces; economic incentives and assurances such as soft loans to people dependent on tourism, cash transfers to daily-wage earners; increase in containment zones and supplement the PDS scheme with community kitchen.

After going through the submissions, the court observed that sufficient ventilators were not provided in the Dedicated Covid Hospitals in the state, as four ventilators were available in Bilaspur district and only one in Sirmaur district.

The court also directed the state to look into the suggestions given by the amicus curiae to facilitate people and make submissions in this regard on November 23.

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