Gujarat HC judges to make surprise visit to hospital

Gujarat High Court judges to make surprise visit to hospital

Representative image (iStock)
While refusing to give a final certificate to the state government with regards the condition of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, judges of a division bench of Gujarat high court have said that they will pay a surprise visit to the hospital "to put an end" to the controversy surrounding the hospital's rising number of COVID-19 patients' death and complaints of mismanagement. Last week, the court made a stinging observation and said the civil hospital "is as good as a dungeon."
"We sound a note of caution. The Superintendent of the Civil Hospital and other authorities of the Health Department of Gujarat shall keep themselves ready to find our presence one fine morning on a given day in the Civil Hospital. This would put an end to all the controversies with regard to the functioning of the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad," the division bench led by Justice J B Pardiwala stated in the order.

The bench said this while passing an order on an application moved by the state government "discreetly" yesterday against the court's observation on May 22 with regard to the condition of civil hospital. In this urgent hearing, no other lawyers were allowed to participate leading to a fresh controversy. The government lawyers told the court that observations "has shaken the confidence of a common man in the Civil Hospital, and in such circumstances, he would be very reluctant to come to the Civil Hospital for treatment if he is tested COVID­19 positive."

The state government told the bench for seeking urgent hearing yesterday that, "Media reports have tarnished the image of the civil hospital and the administration. Castigating the state government for all its efforts in combating COVID­-19. This has created a sense of panic in the public and with every passing minute, the credibility of the state and its efforts is under cloud..." It has been alleged by several lawyers, who are part of a clutch of petitions being heard in high court related to coronavirus pandemic, that the hearing was held behind their back.
The state government has also contended the content of an anonymous letter sent to the court purportedly by a resident doctor of the civil hospital alleging poor management, scarcity of safety equipment and facilities for the doctors. The state government has claimed that the letter was doing the round in social media since first week of May and its content is not true. The government has submitted documents claiming that it has taken a number of steps to ensure smooth functioning.

The court has responded to these claims as saying, "Prima facie, it appears from the materials which have been placed on record that due and proper care is being taken for the treatment of the COVID-­19 patients. However, the matter does not end over here. It is too early for this Court to give any final certificate to the state government as regards the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad. There are many problems which the state government needs to look into closely and try to resolve the same at the earliest in the larger interest of the people of Gujarat, more particularly, the city of Ahmedabad."  The court has noted that "state government boasts that the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad is the biggest hospital in Asia, but, it should now strive very very hard to make the same as one of the best hospitals in Asia.'

The court has refused to accept that content of the anonymous letter has no truth. It says that the letter cannot be dismissed. It says that the government was expected to take appropriate action but instead it dismissed it as rubbish. The order reads, "No resident doctor will muster the courage of coming forward disclosing his identity for the purpose of redressing such grievances. In such circumstances, the resident doctors are compelled to address anonymous letters pointing out the difficulties they are facing as on date in the Civil Hospital. In such circumstances, it  is important that appropriate inquiry should be undertaken with respect to the contents of the anonymous letter."

The bench has held that the content of the letter needs to be probed by a team of independent doctors, not government officers or associated with the civil hospital. Meanwhile, later Tuesday evening, government announced that it has appointed four doctors to address the issues including Dr Pankaj Shah, Tejas Patel, Atul Patel and Harish Doshi. 

The state government also informed the court that in the past two months health minister Nitin Patel, who is also deputy Chief Minister, visited the civil hospital five times in the last two months. The court appreciated this said that "As a health minister of the state, he shoulders huge responsibilities. It is expected of the health minister to discharge his responsibilities for the citizens of the State of Gujarat in the best possible manner."

Meanwhile, the death toll from coronavirus crossed 900-mark on Tuesday with 27 fresh deaths in past 24 hours. The death toll in the state stood at 915, out of which 745 have died in Ahmedabad alone. State also recorded 361 new cases, taking the total figure to 14,829. A total of 7,139 patients have discharged till now.

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