On Thursday, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Alok Aradhe of the Karnataka High Court directed the State government to promptly constitute an expert committee of doctors, who would inspect and supervise COVID-19 hospitals in the state.
The High Court referred to the June 19 order of the Supreme Court by which all states were required to constitute expert committees within a week. The High Court stressed that this expert committee must start functioning immediately in the state.
Furthermore, the bench directed the state and all stakeholders involved to bring out measures for the protection of public servants who are working at the forefront of this pandemic such as pourakarmikas, police, doctors, nurses, ASHA workers, and housekeeping staff in hospitals. The court directed the state to conduct random testing among these groups of workers who are most exposed to COVID-positive patients.
The advocate representing the All India Central Council Of Trade Unions brought to the notice of the bench that, despite previous court directions, the BBMP has not issued the neccessary PPE kits to personnel working in Containment Zones. The court was informed that around 1000 police personnel have been infected with the virus. The court reiterated that the BBMP must strictly implement the directions previously issued on providing PPE kits to front-line workers.
The High Court also addressed the problem of private hospitals refusing to admit COVID-positive patients. The Addl. Advocate General Dhyan Chinappa, submitted that the State government has issued a circular that private hospitals and ambulances are bound to admit and treat COVID patients. According to the government circular, any of the the following three documents can be used as proof by patients to seek treatment: i) SMS alert from an authorised source indicating COVID-positive status, ii) COVID-positive alert on the Aarogya Setu app, or iii) a report from an accredited laboratory indicating positive status.
The court directed the government to set up a dedicated telephone number which patients or aggrieved persons can call to lodge complaints regarding the failure of any hospital to admit a COVID patient. The court pointed out that the government must invoke the Disaster Management Act to enforce directions against private hospitals.
The matter will be heard next on July 20th. The Court directed: “State to give details about steps taken to provide medical facilities in the districts? Details of hospitals, beds, doctors etc in each of the districts to be placed on record. Number of testing centres and ambulances available to be stated.”
First published in Live Law.