Human life is precious and cannot be wasted, the Gujarat High Court said on Saturday, pulling up the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, one of the largest in the country, for its handling of COVID-19 cases and patients. Labeling the hospital that has recorded over 350 COVID-19 deaths a "dungeon", the court pointed out that "poor and helpless patients had no option" but to rely on it during this medical crisis.
"As we said earlier that the Civil Hospital is meant to treat the patients. However, it appears that as on date, it is as good as dungeon. May be even worse than a dungeon. Unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option," the order read.
The Civil Hospital has reported the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the state, the bench observed. "If we calculate (the) weekly deaths, the Civil Hospital still contributes to (the) highest (number of) deaths during the last eight weeks. It is very distressing to note that most of the patients in the Civil Hospital are dying after four days or more of the treatment. This indicates complete lack of critical care," it said.
Gujarat has reported over 13,000 COVID-19 cases and 829 deaths so far - the third-highest state tally after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Ahmedabad alone has more than 10,000 cases, with 277 fresh incidences of the infection detected Saturday. The city has reported 669 deaths linked to the virus.
In its order, the court also slammed the state's Health Minister Nitinbhai Ratilal Patel, seeking a report from Vijay Rupani-led state government.
"We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, as on date, appears to be in an extremely bad shape. Ordinarily, the citizens hailing from a poor strata of society are being treated at the Civil Hospital. This does not mean that human life is not to be protected. Human life is extremely precious and it should not be allowed to be lost at a place like the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad," the order read.
"We wonder, how many times the Health Minster of the State has visited the Civil Hospital at Ahmedabad so as to keep a watch or take stock of what is going on at the Civil Hospital. Does the Health Minister of the State of Gujarat has any idea about the problems which the patients, doctors, nursing staff and other employees are facing as on date?" the court asked during the hearing.
The Civil Hospital in Asarwa area is also regarded as one of the biggest civic-run medical facilities in Asia. It has allotted 1,200 beds to treat COVID-19 patients, according to news agency PTI. However, most patients are being treated in general wards, the court observed.
"It has been submitted that at the SVP and Civil Hospital, all the COVID-19 patients are being treated in a general ward only, and the rooms continue to remain unoccupied leading to an artificial shortage of beds," the court said.
"Everyone must be permitted to have a covid test done," the court said, adding that "the rates for testing by private laboratories must have a ceiling cap, which in the present case is Rs. 4,500".
Earlier this week, Congress MLA from Ahmedabad Gyasuddin Shaikh had raised questions on the high mortality and low discharge rate at the civil hospital, seeking intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
In a letter to the NHRC, Mr Shaikh had alleged that negligence and improper treatment given to COVID-19 patients in the Ahmedabad civil hospital is leading to high number of deaths.
Across India, more than 1.3 lakh people have been affected due to the pandemic, nearly 3,800 have died.
(With inputs from PTI)