Supreme Court: A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat has said that doctors and healthcare professionals are “warriors” in fight against coronavirus and have to be protected, even as the Centre assured that it is doing its best by providing them personal protective equipment (PPE) and other facilities. The Court said,
“The Doctors and the medical staff who are the first line of defence of the country to combat with this pandemic have to be protected by providing Personal Protective Equipments as recommended by WHO.”
The Court also showed dismay over ill-treatment of health care professionals at the hands of citizens. It highlighted the incident that occurred in Indore on 02.04.2020, where the Doctors who had gone to screen certain persons regarding coronavirus, were attacked and stones were pelted by certain miscreants. The Court urged all citizens of the country to act in a responsible manner to extend helping hand to the Government and medical staff to perform their duties to contain and combat the COVID-19. It further directed,
“It is the duty of the State and the Police Administration to provide necessary security at all places where patients who have been diagnosed coronavirus positive or who have been quarantined are housed. The Police security be also provided to Doctors and medical staff when they visit places for screening the people to find out the symptoms of disease.”
Hearing through video-conferencing three petitions seeking protective kits for doctors and healthcare workers amid coronavirus pandemic, the Court was informed by the Centre that PPE kits and other requisite things are being arranged and it is taking steps in this regard. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who made it clear that he was not opposing the prayers made in these petitions, told the bench that doctors and healthcare professionals are “corona warriors” and government is ensuring their protection and safety along with their family members. He also denied reports about salary cut of doctors and staffs of hospitals and said the Centre would write to all the states that no salary should be deducted for purchase of PPEs and masks.
“If anybody is doing something like this, we will send police,”
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that he appreciate the stand of the Solicitor General but doctors are afraid and if medical professionals would not come forward, things would collapse. Rohatgi also pointed out to the reports about corona positive patients escaping from hospitals.
SG said police pickets have been placed in all the hospitals to ensure that people, who should not be mixing with others, should not leave the hospital.
The Court, hence, issued the following directions,
- The Governmentas per guidelines dated 24.03.2020 of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are directed to ensure availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipments, including sterile medical/Nitrile gloves, starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shield, respirators (i.e. N-95 Respirator Mask or Triple Layer Medical Mask or equivalent), shoe covers, head covers and coveralls/gowns to all Health Workers including Doctors, Nurses, Ward Boys, other medical and paramedical professionals actively attending to, and treating patients suffering from COVID-19 in India, in Metro cities, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
- The Government of India, respective States/Union Territories and respective Police authorities are directed to provide the necessary Police security to the Doctors and medical staff in Hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed. Necessary Police security be also extended to Doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of disease.
- The State shall also take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by Doctors, medical staff and 12 other Government Officials deputed to contain COVID-19.
- The Government shall explore all alternatives including enabling and augmenting domestic production of protective clothing and gear to medical professional. This includes the exploring of alternative modes of production of such clothing (masks, suits, caps, gloves etc.) and permitting movement of raw materials. Further, the Government may also restrict export of such materials to augment inventory and domestic stock.
[Jerryl Banait v, Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 357, order dated 08.04.2020]
(With inputs from PTI)