New Delhi, May 15 (ILNS): The Punjab and Haryana High Court has left Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with the responsibility of requesting the corporate houses to participate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, by asking them to provide ambulances, oxygen beds, ventilators, CT Scan machines etc to government hospitals.
This will help the economically weaker strata of society to get easy access to such facilities, observed the Court, while also asking the nodal agencies in all the districts to monitor the ambulance facilities provided by private operators and suggested that they call upon voluntary agencies, NGOs etc to provide additional ambulances.
The court stated, “They would also ensure that tele-consultancy is available to the general public 24×7. Services of doctors/final year medical students may be sought and such phone numbers be widely publicised.”
Earlier, the petitioner had submitted that complete chaos prevails, because of the deadly situation of shortage of oxygen. The High Court had also asked the states to consider home delivery of oxygen cylinders.
Amicus Curiae Rupinder Khosla pointed out the scarcity of oxygen and emphasised the need for more ventilators in GMSH-16, Chandigarh. According to him, only six ventilators are functional at the moment and the hospital is facing difficulty in view of the large number of patients pouring in.
Further, he revealed that there is wastage of vials which are opened for vaccination in all the three states, which needs to be avoided at all costs, as the country is facing paucity of vaccine after the eligible age group has been lowered to 18 years.
He also informed the court about the ambulance facilities provided by the government, which are overburdened. As a result, certain private parties are providing this facility, but at a higher cost, making it a business venture. According to him, there is scarcity of para medical staff as well, which needs immediate attention of the government.
Atul Nanda, Advocate General of Punjab, said that 82 ventilators had been supplied to the state, out of which 71 are faulty and while demanding more, they informed the court that they are available with 24 containers only.
However, he contended that if six containers are arranged at the earliest, it would ease out the situation in Punjab. About 85,000 injections of Remdesivir have been supplied, whereas demand of 37,000 injections is still pending. He further submitted that Punjab needs about four lakh vials of Covishield vaccine immediately.
Additional Advocate General, Haryana, Baldev Raj Mahajan, submitted that a cap has been put on the charges of treatment by private hospitals and they are being closely monitored.
A plan has been drawn up regarding the immense spread of COVID-19 in rural areas and a senior administrative officer has been deputed for every district in Haryana to monitor the situation. He further informed the Court that physical inspection in all rural areas/Districts is being carried out.
As far as the Union Territory (Chandigarh) is concerned, Pankaj Jain, Senior Standing Counsel, submitted that a common strategy ‘Uniform Anti-Corona Measures’ has been decided that the Deputy Commissioners of all three Districts (Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula) and Director Health Services of the three states shall hold meetings twice a week to review the situation and to take measures accordingly.
In case of emergency anywhere in the Tri-city zone, the concerned authorities would provide oxygen, medicines and medical equipment like ventilators to each other to avoid any untoward incident.
Anupam Gupta, Senior Counsel, submitted that though publication of the availability of beds has been started by UT Chandigarh, but it is not in consonance with the established practice being followed in other states, particularly Haryana.
He also highlighted that the PGIMER, Chandigarh being a premier medical institute, is also catering needs of nearby states, such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. It needs to be ensured that it does not face any problem in technical and support or oxygen supply.
The Additional Solicitor General of India submitted that the Government of India has increased the oxygen supply to Punjab from 227 MT to 247 MT and to Haryana from 267 MT to 307 MT.
He further submitted that sufficient number of PSA Generators have been supplied to various Government Hospitals in UT Chandigarh, which all are functional now.
The court stated, “We feel that states need to examine whether Rule 24 of the Haryana Services Rule (General) needs to be invoked in case of Government employees to explore whether Government offices can be made fully functional at the earliest. The Rule says, Every government employee shall get himself vaccinated and re-vaccinated at any time, when so directed by the Government by general or special order,” it added.
The High Court also asked the Government of India to examine the possibility of providing more ventilators to GMSH-16 Chandigarh Hospital, as it is Centrally located and patients normally approach the said hospital in the first instance.
“All the three States may impress upon the private diagnostic centres to reasonably slash their rates for CT Scan for COVID patients,” it said.
The Advocate General of Punjab, Atul Nanda highlighted that under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) incorporated in Section 135 of the Companies Act, it is obligatory for the Companies to contribute at least two percent of their profit as social responsibility to the society in this period of crisis generated due to pandemic.
To which, the High Court stated, “It is left to the three states to ask the Corporate Houses to participate in fighting the crisis by providing ambulances, oxygen beds, ventilators and CT Scan machines to Government Hospitals, so that economically weaker strata of the society has easy access to such facilities.” The matter was adjourned to May 18. ILNS\RG\SJ\RJ