New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday disposed off a petition which highlighted the blatant violation of the human rights of the nurses and other health workers deployed at the forefront in private nursing homes or hospitals in Delhi, after noting that the authorities have taken adequate steps in this regard.
“Looking into the present PIL, the respondents have taken good care of the situation, provided helpline number, grievance settlement cell has been created, for N95 masks and PPE care has been taken and even a nodal officer is also appointed. In these circumstances, there is no need to further monitor the same and hence the said petition is disposed of,” said a division bench of the high court presided by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.
The court also noted the submission of the Delhi government that quarantine is required for nurses who are working with high-risk patients. “In view of this, it appears that quarantine facility is not required for all the nurses,” the bench said.
In its affidavit filed before the court, the Delhi government stated that via an office order dated July 14, the Kejriwal government has directed all registered hospitals both government and private to file an undertaking with regard to the N95 masks, PPE kits and other protective equipment being provided to the nurses and the healthcare workers.
The affidavit said that in respect of making necessary PPE kits, N95 and other protective equipment available, necessary directions have been issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Delhi government which state that all registered healthcare facilities in Delhi are to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health regarding rational use of PPE equipment in accordance with risks involved.
“For managing healthcare workers in COVID as well as non-COVID areas of hospital, regular quarantine of healthcare workers after duty in COVID areas is not warranted, an initial period of one-week quarantine (with further extension of one week) as per discretion of nodal officer is warranted only in high-risk/low-risk exposure, due to breach of PPE or non-use of recommended PPE,” the affidavit stated.
With regard to the ex-gratia amount for all healthcare professionals irrespective of whether they are attending COVID or non-COVID patients, the Delhi government responded that it would abide by its existing policy, which says only those persons (doctors, nurses, paramedic staff, security, sanitation workers, police official or any other government official) whether belonging to private or government who are deployed for COVID-19 duties by the government are eligible for the ex-gratia payment posthumously.
Meanwhile, on the submissions regarding the extension of benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana to the nurses/healthcare professionals, who are working in private nursing homes and the premium for which is to be paid by the government, the Centre informed that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package was implemented by it which provides comprehensive personal accident cover of Rs 50 lakh to over 22.12 lakh healthcare professionals.
During the course of the hearing, the petitioner insisted on inclusion of the nurses working in private nursing homes under the ambit of the scheme, to which the court responded, “If we include other people in this Yojana and interfere with the policy decision, it would change the whole budget of the Yojana.”
“Such schemes are created keeping in view the funds available and the same would affect the budget,” the court added.
The submissions came while the bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which aimed at highlighting the blatant violation of human rights of the nurses and other health workers deployed in the forefront of private nursing homes or hospitals in Delhi.
The plea stated that the health and welfare of the nurses should be considered paramount, especially during the time of such a pandemic.
During these testing times, the plea said, the worst-hit are the nurses who are giving care to the patients at the bedside without personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 mask, gloves, etc especially in private nursing homes in Delhi and other parts of the country when there is spike in asymptomatic Covid cases.
“This has led to severe stress among the working nurses in Delhi and other parts of the country. Nurses live in the midst of the distressed atmosphere of the hospital. Naturally they get tired due to the stress and strain both mentally and physically,” the plea said.