Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday has directed the state government to initiate coercive steps as provided under the Disaster Management Act and Essential Services Maintenance Act, in case the private hospitals refuse to cooperate or are reluctant to conduct Covid test and provide covid facilities.

While haring a petition on the issue of lack of medical facilities in the State medical colleges and hospitals, Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the State to increase the number of authorized laboratories, clinics and hospitals to increase testing and to consider sending fully equipped ‘mobile vans’ also to increase testing and prevent spreading of COVID-19 virus.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Chander Bhushan passed these orders on a writ petition highlighting the issue of lack of oxygen facilities at Dr.Y.S.Parmar, Government Medical College, Nahan and non-functioning of 25 ventilators which have been given to the Medical College under HIM Care Scheme.

The Court also directed to resort to the use of other testing kits, besides the Rapid Antigen Kit, or the RT PCR tests. To tackle the pandemic menace likely to increase in the coming months, the Court directed the State to increase the number of dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals and consider the feasibility of establishing temporary hospitals with the help of any other Central agency, so that a sufficient number of beds equipped with Oxygen tank and ventilators are available.

The Court also directed to increase the number of ICUs in the hospitals, as the second strain is said to be directly affecting the lungs of the patient.

For the convenience of the patients, the Court directed the State Government to publish the names and locations of the testing centres, Hospitals, Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres in the media bulletin on a daily basis, which should also clearly indicate the availability of a total number of beds, vacant beds, beds with ventilators/oxygen cylinders and beds without any oxygen tank/cylinder, in each hospital/Dedicated COVID-19 Health Care Centres.

Apart from the aforesaid directions, the Court directed the State to furnish the information regarding available bed capacity exclusively for Covid-19 facilities in the State both in Government and private hospitals along with the details of the availability of oxygen (high flow or otherwise).

The Court directed the State to give the details of the steps taken and proposed to augment the availability of oxygen meeting both the current and projected requirements. The Court directed to place on record the plan prepared by the State Government under the Disaster Management Act to tackle the Covid-19 cases and steps taken to ensure the availability of essential drugs including Remdesivir, Favipiravir and Tocilizumab amongst other prescribed drugs and the modalities which have been set up for controlling the essential drugs for preventing hoarding and ensuring the proper communication of the requirement at the level of each District by the District Health Authorities or the Collectors of the Health Department of the State.

Furthermore, High Court directed the State to provide details with regard to the distribution of the oxygen, demand and supply of oxygen of the last two weeks and further the details proposed to augment the supply of oxygen. The Court directed the State to ensure the uploading of real-time data about the availability of beds in each hospital of the State for Covid-19 patients on its web portals and also Hospitals’ websites besides physically display the data outside each hospital on daily basis.

The Court has posted the matter for May 10.

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Navneet Rathore is a Shimla based journalist having two-years of experience in the field of journalism. Navneet is a post-graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and is specialised in crime, education, health, environment, agriculture and Horticulture beats.