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Supreme Court to Centre: why not requisition places near hospitals for quarantining doctors?

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New Delhi, May 15, 2020-

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to inform it about steps taken for quarantining doctors and medical staff involved in tackling Covid-19 at accommodations near hospitals.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai took up the matter through video conferencing and told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, “why can’t you requisition other places near the hospital itself?” Mehta replied it is a fair suggestion, and it will be considered. The top court asked the top law officer to take instructions and apprise it by next week.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing doctor-petitioner Arushi Jain, contended before the bench that resident doctors in government hospitals, after they complete 7/14 days on duty, are supposed to be quarantined.

Rohatgi submitted before the court that currently doctors are being quarantined in places where they share room and bathrooms and that the Centre must change this arrangement and ensure they are accommodated where social distancing is feasible.

Rohatgi said any laxity in the arrangements would defeat the purpose of quarantining and corona warriors would suffer. “There should be a hotline. Where will the doctors complain?” asked Rohtagi.

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Mehta replied the petitioner may not have an idea of the pan-India situation. “Protecting corona warriors is our first priority”, he added. Justice Rao asked Mehta to get instructions next week on quarantine facilities, which would be provided to the doctors outside the hospital.

Rohtagi contended that in Delhi, there are 10 hospitals. With doctors working for extended hours, it is important to get information on how many hotels are requisitioned.

Mehta replied to Rohtagi that “your client might not have information about pan-India issues”, and that discussion on this can be demoralizing. He added that there is already a special helpline number to register complaints.

The PIL by a resident doctor sought Standard Operating Procedure for quarantining doctors and healthcare workers engaged in the fight against Covid-19, as doctors are also facing problems in commuting from their residences to the hospitals. Doctors are also facing trouble in housing societies, Rohtagi added.

Mehta said the Centre has issued directions to all states to requisition hotels and guest houses for the doctors and medical staff. These accommodations include budget and five-star hotels, added Mehta. Rohtagi said the directive is fine, but it should mention how many hotels or accommodations are actually available.

On April 8, the apex court had observed doctors and medical staff are the “first line of defence of the country” in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic.  (Agency)

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