A two-judge PIL bench of the High Court of Telangana, comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, on Tuesday gave a series of directions to the State government in the batch of PILs related to Covid-19. The Chief Justice quizzed officials and saw huge gaps in the defences raised by the government through its officials.

The bench was dealing with the issues which were brought before it through various PILs filled by different people; Shiva Ganesh Karnati asking the government to install live dashboards in all the designated Covid-19 hospitals informing about the availability of vacant beds in each hospital.

Dr R Srivatsan challenging the act of government in not commissioning teaching hospitals attached to government hospitals and private hospitals for treatment; DG Narasimha Rao and Srikishan Sharma challenged act of the government in not following the Clinical Establishments Registration and Regulation Act, 2010, and the Indian Medical Council Professional Conduct Etiquette and Ethics Regulation 2002 and not taking effective steps for preventing rampant profiteering by private corporate and teaching hospitals for treating Covid patients.

The bench recalled the direction earlier passed directing Dr Srinivas Rao, head of the department, to file a detailed report of Covid designated hospitals and all other details of total beds, vacant beds, ventilators and oxygen beds in each hospital. Though Dr Rao filed a detailed report of the same, the court said it was not clear on many aspects. It also pointed out that the report did not have the list of private hospitals authorised to treat Covid patients.

The panel also sought to know the steps taken by the government in dealing with the complaints regarding exorbitant charging by private hospitals by citing an example of Manoj Khothari who was charged Rs 4 lakh by a private hospital. Dr Rao said the government had passed a GO capping the charges of the treatment and not the services provided by the hospitals like X-ray, CT Scan, and also expressed its inability to do so as they fall under the Central government.

Rajeshwar Rao, Assistant Solicitor General, pointed out that the Central government, through its letter of July 2, had already directed the respective State governments to cap the services provided by private hospitals. The court also asked Dr Ramesh Reddy, senior official of Gandhi Hospital, about the steps being taken by them and questioned why Covid patients were being turned away from the hospital gates.

Dr Reddy pointed out that Osmania and Gandhi hospitals were treating very critical patients and for moderate and mild symptoms, Fever and Nilofur had been designated with adequate beds. The court pointed out that without any test being performed at Gandhi these patients cannot be turned away. It also raised the issue of why Rapid Antigen Tests were not being performed at Gandhi on general patients. Dr Reddy replied that these tests were being carried only on pregnant women at Gandhi apart from the hospital’s staff.

The court pointed out that this was a serious issue of infringement of Articles 14 and 21. It passed a common order directing the State government to: install dashboards in all government and Covid-designated hospitals informing about the vacancy of beds, ventilator beds and oxygen beds, and provide a web link on the page of Public Health giving details about the same; publish the same daily in vernacular and English newspapers, create a software enabling the public to give complaint against private hospitals for charging above the prescribed rates, and educate the public about the same. It directed the State government to act immediately on the Centre’s letter.

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