Bombay HC directs Maharashtra to control Remdesivir supply, tells Centre to reconsider door-to-door vaccination
Hearing a bunch of petitions on dearth of COVID-19 essentials in Maharashtra, Bombay HC also questioned the Maharashtra government over delays in RT-PCR test reports and said that it would direct government to increase the number of testing labs
The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that there should be a controlled distribution of Remdesivir to plug all the loopholes and asked the Centre to not close the chapter on "door-door vaccination" for the differently-abled, children and those above 75 years of age.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni, which is hearing a bunch of petitions on the improper management of COVID-19 essentials in Maharashtra, also questioned the Maharashtra government over delay in RT-PCR test reports, and said that it will ask the government to increase the number of testing labs with approval from ICMR, LiveLaw reported.
The court also asked the state government to ensure centralised information on the availability of vaccine is accessible to people.
Bombay High Court Chief Justice, Dipankar Datta also appealed to the media to be a more responsible while reporting court proceedings especially in view of the fact that COVID-19 crisis has impacted the Court, its judges and staff.
"It is not the time for you to make sensational news and jack up the news. Sometimes we make comments out of anguish and despair. But to make headlines out of it to increase TRPs is not right," he said. The Chief Justice said that three to four judges of Bombay High Court have tested positive for COVID-19 and some staff members have expired.
"Three to four of our judges have tested positive, some staff has tested positive and passed away unfortunately. Please be sensitive. We are passing through a difficult time," he said.
Some of the other issues under consideration of the bench include PILs on shortages in the supply of oxygen, hospital beds, shortage of doctors, COVID-19 vaccine pricing, among others.
Thursday's observations follow a hearing by the Nagpur bench of the High Court which on Wednesday had come down heavily on the Maharashtra government for its "extremely callous" behaviour towards the issue of procuring and allocating Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients.
The court had said that authorities are shirking their responsibilities.
Remdesivir drug shortage and supply
On the matter of shortage of Remdesivir drug in Maharashtra, the court observed the need for controlled distribution to prevent "indiscriminate use of the drug". It also said that a portal should be developed to enable access to the drug and track its shortage at the district level.
"We shouldn't expect the patients or their relatives or the health staff to run around for searching for the drug. It is the duty of the state to make it available," Justice Kulkarni observed on Thursday.
During the hearing, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the court that "indiscriminate use of this drug by patients and doctors have led to a shortage".
Stating that the requirement for the drug is 10 percent of the cases reported in a day, Kumbhakoni said that patients are insisting on remdesivir. The AG said, "Only six vials per patient are required, but people have bought 30 vials for their families only to prepare for an emergency."
"There is a medical misconception that Remdevisir is a life-saving drug," the AG added. Following this, the court asked why no advisory was issued on the same.
"There is a panic created that this is required by every positive patient. Not only the medical fraternity but even the general public should know about this," the court observed, adding that an advisory similar to the COVID-19 -warning message on the phone should be issued on remdesivir as well.
Door to door vaccination
Hearing the PIL filed by lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking a door-to-door vaccination programme for senior citizens above the age of 75, the specially-abled persons and those who are bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound, the Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Centre to reconsider its stand, saying it must consider the plight of old people and the disabled.
"Don't close the chapter saying it is not possible. This ought not to be the policy. The Union Government will have to give a relook to its policy and do something for the elderly people.
"The policy needs a relook by experts. You cannot leave old people to die," Chief Justice Datta said. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had on Wednesday informed the court that door-to-door vaccination was not possible due to various reasons including the possibility of contamination and wastage of vaccine.
"Both the children and elderly people are not in a position to function independently, so we have to take care of them," Justice Kulkarni said, adding that vaccine is the only certain way of ending the pandemic.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh argued that many senior citizens suffer from serious ailments and they must be kept under medical observation for half an hour after they get the jab. This was not possible in a door-to-door drive, he said.
The court said some middle way must be found, as such people with co-morbidities need the vaccine all the more.
COVID-19 vaccine availability
The high court also sought to know about the vaccine availability in Maharashtra.
Kumbhakoni said the present stock will last only three or four days, but it would be replenished soon. The court said people should be intimated whether the vaccine is available at a particular centre so that they do not travel in vain.
"Centralised information has to be available. Otherwise, it will be like the Mumbai floods where a person sitting in south Mumbai has no idea what the situation is in the suburbs and ends up travelling there and getting stuck in water for hours," Justice Kulkarni said.
Hearing the petitions on the unavailability of COVID-19 beds in Maharashtra, the AG said that the reports of shortage of beds in media are due to people insisting on hospitals close to their homes.
"The middle class and upper-middle-class insist on private hospitals, sometimes they insist on hospitals close to their home. That's being projected in the media as shortage of beds," the AG said.
The figures submitted in the court, in fact, showed a surplus of COVID-19 beds in the state.
On the issue of oxygen supply in the state, Kumbhakoni submitted to the court that Maharashtra requries 1,500 MT oxygen per day of which 1200 MT is supplied and the remaining is imported. The pre- COVID-19 requirement was 150 MT.
Kumbhakoni said that there is a shortage of cryogenic tankers which transport oxygen at a temperature of -200 degrees Celsius and that tankers of other gases like Nitrogen and Argon are being requisitioned to transport oxygen. Since these tankers are to be driven at a very low speed, the state has deployed ro-ro trains to transport oxygen, Kumbhakoni said, adding that the trains will reach Nagpur by 3 pm Friday.
Kumbhakoni also informed the court that a decision has been taken to move needy patients near the industries producing oxygen by creating jumbo COVID centres.
The AG also informed that the demand for oxygen is projected to increase to 2,000 MT and that the state has to account for the shortfall of 800 MT.
Among the several PILs, the court said that it would consider hearing issues like the COVID-19 vaccine price, grievances related to home quarantine not being covered under medical insurance. It also asked both Centre and State to make submissions on the Nashik oxygen tank leak in which 22 people died.
"How in a civilized society this can happen? This is not what we expect from a responsible government," CJ Datta asked.
On the issue of the smoking ban, the court said that it would consider a temporary ban if there was a study that showed that smoking contributed to COVID-19 .
The court stated that the detailed order will be uploaded by tonight (22 April, 2021) and posted the matter for hearing on 4 May, 2021.
With inputs from PTI
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