Mumbai, Apr 25 (ILNS) The Bombay High Court has directed the State to ensure that anti-viral drug Remdesivir is made available to patients at the hospital/Covid Centre itself, without forcing them to run pillar to post, through a helpline number, which must be operational 24X7.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni passed the order on a PIL filed by Sneha Nirav Marjadi, raising concerns over the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, which has gripped the country and more particularly, affecting the citizens of Maharashtra.
The four issues raised by the petitioner, include: shortage of supply of drug ‘Remdesivir’; shortage of supply of oxygen; ‘Bed management’ in hospital, and with regards to the COVID-19 tests – the “RT-PCR” and the “Rapid Antigen” tests.
The Petitioner stated that Remdesivir is used in the treatment of Covid-19 patients. This drug is in the form of injection available in vials. This drug reduces the need for oxygen and the longer hospitalisation of the patients.
Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, Advocate General, submitted a brief note on each of the issues raised by the petitioner. In regard to the supply of drug Remdesivir, it is submitted an American Multinational company named ‘GILEAD INC’ owns the Patent for this drug, which is mainly used to cure patients affected by Ebola virus and the diseases related thereto.
According to Mr Kumbhakoni, the said American Company has assigned rights for its manufacture and sale to only seven companies in India and the companies have, in turn, entered into contracts with manufacturers for manufacturing of this drug. In Maharashtra, there is only one such manufacturer of the said drug.
Advocate Kumbhakoni stated that this drug has been authorised for COVID-19, only as and by way of `emergency use authorisation’ and hence, the drug cannot be prescribed and used for each and every COVID-19 patient, especially irrespective of the stage at which the infection has affected adversely the health of the patient.
The petitioner, represented by Advocates Arshil Shah and Simil Purohit, submitted that there was shortage in the availability of Oxygen throughout the state, and cited various social media posts and news reports to demonstrate her point.
The Advocate General said that there are 6,86,000 active COVID patients in Maharashtra, out of which 78,000 require oxygen. The state’s present requirement of 1500 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, was being met by its production of 1200 MT and importing Oxygen from other states, based on the order of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), dated April 18, 2021.
He mentioned a projected need for nearly 2000 MT of Oxygen, candidly admitting that there may be a shortfall in the future. He argued that Maharashtra was the first state to import Oxygen through Roll-on/roll-off trains (RORO) and to divert nearly 100 percent Oxygen production for medical purposes.
In its order, the Court directed the state to set up a mechanism, by which specific needs at different places/hospitals can be identified and supply can be accordingly regulated.
The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC), represented by Senior Advocate Anil Sakhare, denied there was a delay in getting RT-PCR Tests and dismissed the petitioner’s husband’s case, where he was asked to produce a private doctor’s prescription to get tested at a government hospital as ‘misunderstanding’.
“How do we disbelieve these versions of Advocates of this Court? We are also hearing this. It is coming to such a point that everyone will have to ask for an RT-PCR test on camera to prove it was denied,” the Court observed.
Based on the petitioner’s recommendation, the Bench directed the state to consider granting permission to more laboratories.
The Court directed the state to consider granting permission to more laboratories to undertake the RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests, who would work as per the protocol involving the ICMR and the NABL. A decision in that regard be taken within one week from today and the eligible laboratories/centers be granted such permission to undertake the RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests.
The Court stated that to ensure the availability of the drug, a Nodal Agent with the helpline number with adequate staff at its disposal to undertake the supply of the drug at the required hospital/Covid center shall be appointed. It would be an absolute obligation on part of the state to keep the helpline number in operation all over the state for 24 hours.
“We would accordingly adjourn the hearing of this petition to enable the respondents to file their respective replies to the petition,” said the Court.
The Court issued the following interim directions:‐
(1) The state is directed to consider granting permission to more laboratories to undertake the RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests, who would work as per the protocol involving the ICMR and the NABL. A decision in that regard be taken within one week from today and the eligible laboratories/centers be granted such permissions to undertake the RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests.
(2) We direct the Central Government and the State Government to place on record the response and the data in regard to the victims of Covid-19 who were addicted to smoking;
(3) We direct the state government to establish a portal and a helpline number concerning the availability of different category of beds in Government hospitals, Municipal Corporation hospitals and private hospitals, so as to bring about a situation that no patient is deprived of treatment, for want of bed.
(4) We direct the State Government that all measures be taken to increase and regulate the supply of oxygen to all the government and private hospitals in the state and at the earliest notify a mechanism, so that the specific needs at different places/hospitals can be identified and supply can be accordingly regulated.
“We would be failing to our duty, if we do not appreciate the steps taken by the Central Government and the State Government to control the pandemic and of the medical fraternity, however, as noted above, our concern is also to the duty of every citizen towards the society at large, which, in our opinion appears to have been neglected, which is one of the reasons that the second wave has hit us. It is well established that every legal right has a corresponding legal duty. If the fellow citizens fail to take all precautions and fail to discharge their duty towards society, it would certainly create further complications and make it difficult to arrest the spread of the pandemic. It is high time that every citizen undertakes to discharge his solemn obligation towards the society and refrain from indulging into such activities, which would bring about a further surge in the spread of this deadly virus”, the order read. ILNS/SNG/RJ