The Gujarat High Court on Monday said it was concerned about cases of mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, emerging in the state and asked the government to prepare for the new challenge.
It directed the state government to place on record a road-map on how it intends to proceed if the number of cases of the fungal infection rise.
Of late, the black fungus, a rare but serious infection, has been found in several COVID-19 patients in Gujarat and some other states.
A division bench of Justices Bela Trivedi and Bhargav D Karia asked Advocate General Kamal Trivedi to take instructions on how the Gujarat government plans to supply the injections needed for its treatment to private hospitals, if demanded by them.
The court said this after Trivedi informed that the government has placed orders for 1,14,430 vials of three injections needed for the treatment of the fungal infection directly from manufacturers.
"You will have to place on record the road-map as to how you will proceed further in case the number of cases increase, how you can give injections to private hospitals if demanded, because you have procured everything...," the HC said.
The court was hearing a PIL taken up suo motu (on its own) on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Trivedi told the court that while injections for the treatment of mucormycosis are not easily available, the government was trying to procure them privately from a few manufacturers to meet the demands of government hospitals where special wards have been set up to treat the infection.
"We have placed an order of 1,14,430 vials of all the three injections, and are awaiting the supply...there will be sufficient stock to take care of the present situation," he told the court.
Ms Trivedi said they have a protocol in place and separate wards in all the district hospitals, and an expert team has also been constituted which comes up with a bulletin at regular intervals.
"Today, we are prepared, but once again, it depends upon the dynamics of this particular disease," Ms Trivedi said in his submission before the court.
The HC asked the government whether private hospitals treating mucormycosis patients will have to go to government hospitals if the former did not have the required injections.
The court said "this is a new challenge which is incidental to the main challenge". So, the government should prepare itself for the new challenge.
"What is the policy of distribution of injections, asit appears the number (of cases) is going to increase. We are very much concerned about this issue," the HC said.
Advocate Anand Yagnik, who moved a civil application regarding mucormycosis on behalf of Congress MLA Gyasuddin Sheikh as part of the suo motu proceedings, said in his submission that there is need for a mechanism to allocate a certain quota of injections to private hospitals treating such patients.
He said while private hospitals have made requests (for medical supplies) as per the regular channel for COVID-19 patients, no such system exists for mucormycosis patients.
While civil hospitals in larger centres like Ahmedabad may have enough supply of the injections, government hospitals in rural and tribal parts may not have enough supply, he said.
In a related submission, advocate Amit Panchal, representing one of the applicants, sought the HC's direction to the state government to declare mucormycosis as a notified disease as per the Gujarat Public Health Act-2009, so that like COVID-19, the government could collect data and have some control over it.
"This will be helpful to patients. Maximum number of mucormycosis cases are in Gujarat, especially in south Gujarat," Mr Panchal claimed.
The court then asked the Advocate General to make notes and come up with a suggestion by the next date of hearing on May 26.