25/05/2020 2:59 PM IST

Gujarat Govt Responds After HC Says Ahmedabad Civil Hospital 'As Good As Dungeon'

There are 14,056 confirmed coronavirus cases in Gujarat.

Amit Dave / Reuters
Health workers wearing protective gear leave after collecting samples during a door-to-door verification in a residential area in Ahmedabad, April 29, 2020.

The Gujarat government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has come under the scanner as cases continue to rise in the state. There are 14,056 confirmed coronavirus cases in Gujarat, according to the health ministry’s update on Monday morning, the third highest in the country.

The Gujarat High Court had on Saturday come down heavily on the state government and the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, saying the conditions in the hospital were “pathetic”. 377 Covid-19 patients had died in the hospital till Friday, and the hospital is “as good as a dungeon, may be even worse”, the Gujarat High Court observed in its order, PTI reported.

The order was passed in a suo motu PIL on coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown. An anonymous letter, whose content suggests that it was likely written by a medical professional in the hospital’s gynaecology department who tested positive while on non-Covid duty, was part of the Gujarat High Court’s order, The Indian Express said. 

A division bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and IJ Vora said, “It is very distressing and painful to note that the condition prevailing, as on date, in the Civil Hospital, is pathetic... We are very sorry to state that the Civil Hospital Ahmedabad, as on date, appears to be in an extremely bad shape.”

“As we said earlier that the Civil Hospital is meant to treat the patients. However, it appears that as on date, it is as good as a dungeon. May be even worse than a dungeon. Unfortunately, the poor and helpless patients have no option,” it said, according to PTI.

The HC issued a host of directions to the state government to improve conditions for treatment of patients at the hospital.

The court, according to The Economic Times, also observed that the “senior doctors do not visit the wards and throw the entire burden on the resident doctors.”

The court also sought a reply from the state government. 

“Does the health minister of the state of Gujarat have any idea about the problems which patients, doctors, nursing staff and other employees are facing as on date? How many times the health minister has interacted with the medical officers and other staff members in person so as to understand their difficulties and problems?” it said.

“Is the state government aware of the hard fact that the patients at the Civil Hospital are dying because of lack of adequate number of ventilators? How does the state government propose to tackle this problem of ventilators?” the court further asked.

The Gujarat High Court also questioned the state government’s decision to not allow private laboratories to conduct Covid-19 tests, saying whether this is meant to “artificially control” the data of number of coronavirus cases in the state.

It directed the state to procure maximum testing kits to enable both private and government hospitals to carry out tests at government rates.

The bench in its order on Friday also said the argument that “more number of tests will lead to 70% of the population testing positive for coronavirus, thereby leading to fear psychosis,” should not be a ground to refuse or restrict testing.

Gujarat government responds

The state government on Sunday said it would file a detailed reply on how hard it had worked to control the situation.

“Gujarat High Court has asked some questions, given some guidelines, suggested some measures and given some opinion. The chief minister, law minister and I had a detailed meeting with with advocate general Kamal Trivedi and the state government will file its reply next week,” deputy CM and health minister Nitin Patel told reporters, according to PTI.

On the HC’s question on how many times the health minister had visited Civil Hospital, Patel said, “Though I would not like to comment on matters which are under the consideration of the high court, for the allegations which have been levelled against me personally, I will say that in the last two months I have visited the city civil hospital five times.”

“Though my age is 64 and being a senior citizen, I am advised not to venture out of home, for the last 55 days, I have worked without taking a break,” he said, adding he attended core committee meetings on the outbreak daily, and personally intervened in many health department issues.

Congress takes a dig at state government

The Congress on Sunday said the Gujarat government’s “inefficiency” in handling the coronavirus crisis has rendered it “undermining, under-confident and underachieving”.

“In Gujarat, today we don’t have a health care system, we have a sick system,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, according to PTI.

Singhvi also sought to know why the prime minister or the home minister did not intervene.

(With PTI inputs)