New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre to apprise it about steps taken for quarantining doctors and medical staff engaged in fight against coronavirus in accommodations near the hospitals itself.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, which took up the matter through video conferencing asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to take instructions and apprise it by next week.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for doctor-petitioner Arushi Jain, said that resident doctors in government hospitals, after completing 7/14 days on duty, are supposed to be quarantined.
He said these doctors are quarantined in places where they have to share rooms, bathrooms but it should be done in places, where social distancing can be maintained.
Rohatgi said this type of arrangements would defeat the purpose of quarantining and corona warriors will fall down.
He said the government should requisition such hotels and guest houses where proper facilities are available and social distancing could be maintained.
He said he was not seeking any adversarial order but is only asking for suitable accommodation with necessary facilities near the hospital for the doctors and medical staffs, who are in forefront of dealing with Covid-19 pandemic.
He added that there must be some standard operating procedures as doctors are also facing problems in travelling from their residences to the hospitals, facing trouble in housing societies and the government should help them, or these frontline warriors will fall down.
Mehta said that Centre has issued directions to all state governments to requisition hotels and guest houses for the doctors and medical staffs, which include budget hotels and five-star hotels.
He said that necessary steps are already being taken but if there are any aberrations in any particular instance, it can be brought to the notice of the government and it would be resolved.
Mehta said that government is taking every steps to protect the warriors and directions have been issued and it is now a criminal non-bailable offence to attack doctors or asking them to leave the house or housing society.
The bench asked Mehta, to consider the suggestions given by the petitioner for providing doctors accommodations nearby the hospital for quarantining.
Mehta said that some advisories are under considerations of the government and this would be one of them.
Rohatgi intervened and said that what the Solicitor General is saying is too few too little as directive is fine but it should be told as how many hotels or accommodations are there.
He said there should be a helpline for doctors and medical staffs to complain about any problem they are facing. Mehta said that Rohatgi's client does not have knowledge of pan India and these kinds of debates are demoralising as for government protection of corona warriors is first priority.
The bench asked Mehta as to why can't the government consider requisitioning other places with better facilities near the hospital itself?
Mehta replied that it was a fair suggestion and would be considered. He said that as far as helpline is considered there already exists one.
The bench, then told Mehta that it would take up the matter next week and by then he should take instructions on quarantine facilities for doctors and medical staffs nearby the hospitals.
On April 8, the top court had observed that the doctors and medical staff are the "first line of defence of the country" in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic, and directed the Centre to ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) are made available to them for treating coronavirus patients.
While passing a slew of interim directions to ensure safety of doctors and healthcare professionals, the apex court had expressed concern over the recent incidents of attack on them and directed the Centre, all states and Union Territories to provide necessary police security to the medical staff in hospitals and places where patients, who are either quarantined, suspected or diagnosed with Covid-19, are housed.
The top court had directed that "states shall also take necessary action against those persons who obstruct and commit any offence in respect to performance of duties by doctors, medical staff and other government officials deputed to contain Covid-19".
The court had passed the order on three petitions including that of Arushi Jain seeking protective kits, other requisite equipment and safety measure for doctors and healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The apex court had directed that police security be extended to doctors and other medical staff, who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of the disease.