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Ahmedabad civil hospital should be ready for a surprise visit by judges: Gujarat HC

Two-judge bench also refuses to overlook claims made in an anonymous letter by a resident doctor, tells govt to form panel to probe allegations.  

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New Delhi: The Gujarat High Court Monday warned the authorities at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital “to keep themselves ready” for a sudden visit by the judges any day. The hospital is the main government Covid-19 facility in the state but the court had in its last hearing, likened it to 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,” said a bench comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh J. Vora. “This would put an end to all the controversies with regard to the functioning of the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad.” 

The bench also directed the state government to form a committee of independent doctors to probe the conditions at the hospital. 

The order was passed after an urgent hearing was sought by the state authorities Monday over the court’s strongly worded order passed Friday pulling them up for the “pathetic” condition of the Civil Hospital.  

Friday’s order had also taken note of an anonymous letter by a 25-year-old resident doctor serving at the hospital and a report prepared by a “responsible medical officer” at the hospital, without naming him.

The report spoke about the grievances voiced at the Covid-19 hospitals in Ahmedabad, the current practices, and the possible solutions. The court had then directed a team of three senior medical officers to look into it.

The authorities have now challenged the authenticity of the claims made in the letter, and also claimed that the three-member team examined the issues raised in the report, and found all the allegations to be incorrect.

The court has, however, refused to buy it and instead has pushed authorities to look into the allegations made in the letter, by forming a another committee of two or three independent doctors.   

Further, while the state authorities filed photographs and a detailed application Monday on the functioning of the civil hospital, the bench asserted that it is “too early for this Court to give any final certificate to the state government as regards the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad”. 

The state had also claimed that the court order had “shaken the confidence of a common man in the civil hospital”, to which the two-judge bench asserted that the only way for the government to repose confidence is by holding erring officials responsible for their negligence. It asked Health Minister Nitin Patel “to keep a close vigil over the administration and functioning of the civil hospital”.

Also read: Doctors cite two reasons why Ahmedabad Civil Hospital has a high Covid mortality rate

Patients refusing to be in civil hospital

According to the court order, a note was submitted by government pleader Manisha Lavkumar to the high court registrar, questioning the authenticity of the claims in the letter and the report.  

Pursuant to the note submitted Monday morning, the bench heard the case at 4 pm the same day.  

The note submitted that both the documents had been doing the rounds on social media since the first week of May and do not depict the true picture of the civil hospital. It asserted that the court’s observations taking into account the letter and the report have “seriously demoralised” the Covid-19 task force, and has caused “fear and anxiety” among patients.  

The patients, it said, are refusing to be admitted to the civil hospital now.  

The government further submitted that the order was passed without giving an opportunity to the authorities to clarify the actual situation at the hospital. It therefore sought to submit to the court “authentic contemporaneous material” to counter the claims made in the letter and the report. It also claimed to have a report of experts from Delhi to substantiate its stand.  

It, among other things, informed the court of the facilities available at the hospital, and the fact that  the deputy chief minister (and health minister Nitin Patel) had so far visited the civil hospital five times in two months for inspection. Principal Secretary (health) Dr Jayanti Ravi, it said, had so far visited the hospital 20 times.  

It also attached photographs showing the facilities in the hospital. 

Also read: Hope over fear, joy after despair — our 14 days in quarantine were a lesson in positivity

Free treatment, private hospitals on board

In its application, the state government also informed the court that the ward boys and nurses were given “motivational briefing” every day for 15 minutes to boost their morale, and said that they were also given counselling sessions and relaxation exercises. It told the court of a call centre, complaint desk, CCTV cameras, and a monitor room in Gandhinagar for the chief minister to keep track of all activities at the civil hospital.  

The state government also assured the court that in keeping with its order, private hospitals were also being spoken to and several of them had given their consent to treat Covid-19 patients as and when required. Their rates were also being re-negotiated and would be conveyed to the court soon, it said.  

It further informed the court that certain hospitals were providing Covid-19 treatment free of cost, while the private hospitals that have been requisitioned will only charge within the ceiling provided by the authorities.  

Most of the court’s other directions passed Friday were also responded to as being already complied with or being worked on. 

Also read: Ahmedabad doctor says he was called ‘fattu’ and denied Covid test, hospital refutes charges




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