Coronavirus: SC seeks Centre’s reply on plea for WHO graded protective gear to medical staff

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking directions for providing WHO graded protective gear to doctors, nurses and medical staff who are treating coronavirus patients across the country.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah, which heard the matter through video-conferencing, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into the plea filed by a Nagpur-based doctor and file response on it by next week.

The plea has claimed that in the absence of appropriate protective gear, doctors and other medical staff are putting themselves at risk of being affected by the virus, also called COVID-19, and it is the duty of the state to ensure that they get all the required kit while treating patients.

It said the Centre should ensure that World Health Organization (WHO) graded protective gear, including hazmat suits, personal protective equipment (PPE), starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shield, respirators and head covers, is made available to all health workers like doctors, nurses, ward boys, medical and para-medical professionals who are attending COVID-19 patients.

Jerryl Banait, the petitioner who is a doctor, has also sought a direction to the states to set up COVID-19 special screening centres in smaller towns and other cities and to take immediate steps to ensure effective implementation of health ministry’s January 25 guidelines which prescribe procedures and practices to be adopted for infection prevention and control.

The plea has also sought a direction to the authorities to take necessary steps to ensure adherence to the guidelines issued by the WHO and the health ministry on rational use of PPE for COVID-19.

It also said that doctors and other para-medical professionals should be provided facilities including food, separate transportation and accommodation or isolation rooms to protect exposure of their families.

The plea has sought a direction to the authorities to undertake immediate measures for wide-scale screening and testing of potential COVID-19 patients and to issue guidelines regarding tests through private agencies or labs, including regulated pricing and manner of testing.

“As there is no specific vaccination to prevent or cure COVID-19, it is imperative for doctors to be in constant contact with patients, so as to monitor them on regular intervals, and observe their symptoms. In the absence of appropriate protective gear, doctors put themselves at the risk of being affected by the virus in the discharge of their duties,” the plea said.

“It is the duty of the states to ensure graded protective gear to doctors and other welfare facilities, so as to aid them to combat the virus,” it said, adding, “In the case, where the hospitals and health centres are not provided WHO standardized masks and gowns, medical staff mortality will exponentially increase and the situation will spiral out of control in the absence of sufficient medical assistance.”

The plea said authorities should provide adequate protective gears to medical professionals to ensure that those who are continuously working towards treating and testing the diagnosed patients and to screen and quarantine the ones suspected, are not susceptible to the virus. (agencies)