The Delhi High Court Thursday suggested that the AAP government set up a mechanism like a helpline on which healthcare workers can call anonymously to complain against private hospitals or nursing homes not providing N-95 masks and PPE kits.
The suggestion came from a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan during the hearing of a PIL by an NGO which has alleged that nurses in private hospitals and nursing homes were not being provided proper personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and masks to guard against COVID-19 infection.
The court said once a complaint is received on the helpline, the Delhi government can inspect the hospital or nursing home concerned and fulfil the PPE kits and masks requirements.
The court also asked the NGO, Distress Management Collective, to give suggestions on how the issues raised in its PIL can be addressed and listed the matter for hearing on July 6.
The Delhi government has said that it was taking action against private hospitals and nursing homes which violate the COVID-19 guidelines as and when such instances are brought to its attention.
The Centre, represented by its standing counsel Anil Soni, told the court that it was providing all assistance to the states which have to do the actual work.
It has in its affidavit said that it has provided PPE kits and N 95 masks to states and union territories as per their requirement and it is up to them to "optimally utilize" the protective gear.
The NGO alleged that nurses in private hospitals and clinics were being given used PPE kits.
It sought that all the private sector nurses be covered under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package of insurance protection and provided proper psycho-social support.
On these aspects, the Delhi government has said that it has issued an office order on April 7 which states that any person, including doctors, nurses, para-medical staff, sweeper or any other staff in government or private sector, expires while attending to COVID-19 patients his/ her family shall be provided Rs 1 crore as compensation. It has also said that an office order was issued on June 17 notifying that psychiatric social counselling services are being made available to health care workers under a programme called ''samarthan''.
The ministry, in its response, has said that health care workers in government and private sectors are covered under the PMGKP which provides comprehensive personal accident cover of Rs 50 lakh.
The NGO, which claims to be a group of social workers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, retired bureaucrats and retired judges, has alleged that the Centre and the Delhi government have a "discriminatory approach" towards nurses in private hospitals and nursing homes as compared to those working in state-run facilities.
It has also claimed that the private management which runs these nursing homes/hospitals "are maintaining nil or meagre inventory of requisite stock of safety equipments" and are not exercising basic precautions for safety and security of their healthcare workers.