Plea in SC highlights ‘complete apathy and disorganised state of affairs in Delhi’ regarding COVID-19

Petitioner, a lawyer who is himself suffering from COVID-19, has stated that his entire family is suffering from COVID-19 due to lack of any first aid and refusal of admission to any of the hospitals

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
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NH Web Desk

A Delhi-based Advocate, Udian Sharma has moved the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the suo moto case registered over management of COVID-19 situation, to highlight "complete apathy" and "disorganized state of affairs" prevalent in the state of Delhi, legal news website LiveLaw.in has reported.

The lawyer, himself a COVID-19 patient, has sought to intervene in the case titled "In Re Proper Treatment Of COVID-19 Patients And Dignified Handling Of Dead Bodies In The Hospitals, Etc." to highlight the ground reality of how COVID-19 patients and dead bodies are being treated by the hospitals and the health departments.

Sharma has stated that his entire family is suffering from the deadly virus due to lack of any first aid and refusal of admission to any of the hospitals.

Lack of first aid

Sharma has alleged that when he suspected of having contracted the virus, he could not even get tested.

"The government hospitals, without any reason were denying tests even to symptomatic patients, and to get tested from a reputable private lab was an impossible task due to their delayed appointments and technical online process," he submitted.

He has informed the Court that his 86 years old grandfather recently died due to the infection, for being "negligently stranded" outside a government hospital and mishandled by the authorities.

As per the plea, "The hospitals not only failed in giving the applicant's grandfather a bed, but also failed in giving him a first aid. No oxygen cylinder was provided to him, and he was lying unattended outside the building of Safdarjung hospital, with a 104.2 fever."

He has claimed that his grandfather or all other patients were made to stand for hours in multiple queues, and were not even provided with a paracetamol capsule, let alone a ventilator. The applicant's grandfather passed away while waiting for a bed outside the gate of the Safdarjung Hospital for the entire night.

"Loss of the applicant's grandfather's life due to the gross negligence of the Hospital and state authorities unequivocally depicts how the state has failed in helping the retired senior citizen who served this country," the plea states.

Dead body management

Sharma has also drawn the attention of the court towards the failure of the health authorities with regard to the measures taken post the death of his grandfather, inasmuch as his family was not contacted by either the hospital or by the health authorities for any help or assistance or even for testing.

"The health departments grossly failed in performing their duties post the death of a family member from COVID-19. No one from the hospital or the health department came to visit the family, even when they were informed that the entire family had severe symptoms and there were other elders at the house," the plea sates.

It is further alleged that the area around his house was not sanitized nor were the family members and neighbours sensitized.

"There was no intervention from the authorities to even test the remaining family members, or for any medical assistance. The family members were not even asked to self isolate themselves nor were they asked to stay at home. There was no intervention from the government," Sharma has averred.

Furthermore, the plea highlights the "poor mismanagement" of the hospital and the State authorities in handling the dead body of the Applicant's grandfather.

"The authorities are not following the protocols for cremation of the dead bodies who have passed away due to COVID-19. Moreover the Applicant's family faced grave difficulties while performing the last rites of their grandfather, there is no mechanism which is being uniformly followed by the authorities in assisting the grieving families," Sharma submitted.

In these circumstances, Sharma has sought strict implementation of the ICMR and Central Government's guidelines on management of COVID-19 patients and their bodies. He has prayed the court to:

  • Direct the State agencies to devise a policy for the testing process at the government hospitals, which shall significantly reduce the time taken for any person to get tested, and eventually reduce the risk of exposure;
  • Direct the State agencies and hospitals authorities to send results/reports to the patients within 48 hours, especially earlier in cases where the patients are at a higher risk for severe illness;
  • Direct the concerned government authorities to cap the high prices of oxygen cylinders, so that COVID-19 affected families can themselves use the cylinders at home as a measure of first aid during self isolation;
  • Direct the government authorities to ensure that the dead bodies of the patients dying from COVID-19 are handled with dignity and the family members get an opportunity to perform the last rites by improving the condition at the cremation grounds.

The Supreme Court had taken suo moto notice of the reports of alleged mishandling of Covid-19 affected dead Bodies. On Friday, the bench comprised by Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and MR Shah issued notices to the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu over the "sorry state of affairs of care of Covid patients."

The court had also directed the state governments to increase the number of Covid-19 testing, so as to ascertain the affected population and provide them with adequate treatment. The bench had observed, "Non-testing of the patients is not a solution to the problem rather increase in the testing facility is the duty of the State, so that people may come to know about their health status regarding COVID-19 and they may take appropriate care and treatment of COVID-19."

The case will next be taken up on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

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