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Hospitals directed no COVID patient be refused admission for lack of valid ID, Centre tells SC

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All central and state government hospitals managing COVID patients have been directed to ensure that no patient is refused admission due to lack of a valid identity card and a positive test report for coronavirus, the Centre has told the Supreme Court. In an affidavit on the points raised by the top court, the Centre submitted that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has intimated all state governments regarding the policy of setting up three-tier Health infrastructure for appropriate management of suspect/ confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As the vaccination of the entire country is not possible in one stretch due to the very suddenness of the pandemic and limited availability of vaccine doses, the vulnerability is the prime consideration, it said.

The Centre’s affidavit was submitted late Sunday night in a suo motu case by the apex court for ensuring essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It further said that the guidance document issued in this regard on April 7, 2020, envisages/mandates setting up of COVID Care Centre (CCC) for mild cases and these have been set up in hostels, hotels, schools, stadiums and lodges, both public and private.

“Functional hospitals like Community Health Centres (CHCs), etc, which may be handling regular, non-COVID cases may also be designated as COVID Care Centers as a last resort. Dedicated COVID Health Centre (DCHC) that shall offer care for all cases that have been clinically assigned as moderate.

“These should either be a full hospital or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry/exit/zoning. Private hospitals may also be designated as COVID Dedicated Health Centres. These hospitals would have beds with assured Oxygen support,” the Centre said.

It said that a dedicated COVID hospital shall offer comprehensive care primarily for those who have been clinically assigned as severe.

“These hospitals should either be a full hospital or a separate block in a hospital with preferably separate entry/exit. Private hospitals may also be designated as COVID Dedicated Hospitals. These hospitals would have fully equipped ICUs, Ventilators and beds with assured Oxygen support,” it said.

The Centre further said: “It is submitted that the Central Government has also directed that the hospitals under the Central Government, State Governments and Union territory administrations including private hospitals (in States and UTs) managing COVID patients shall ensure — Requirement of a positive test for COVID-19 virus is not mandatory for admission to a COVID health facility if clinically hospitalisation is necessary otherwise.

“A suspect case shall be admitted to the suspect ward of CCC, DCHC or DHC as the case may be. No Patient will be refused services on any count. This includes medications such as oxygen or essential drugs even if the patient belongs to a different city. No patient shall be refused admission on the ground that he/she is not able to produce a valid identity card that does not belong to the city where the hospital is located.”

The government told the apex court that admissions to the hospital must be based on need and it should be ensured that beds are not occupied by persons who do not need hospitalisation.

“The Chief Secretaries of States/Union Territories have been requested to issue circulars, incorporating the above directions within three days, which shall be in force till replaced by an appropriate uniform policy.

“The Centre also submitted that Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has written to all the Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary Health/Medical education of all States and UTs, to provide for extraordinary measures to augment the need of medical staff in the country,” the bench said.

In view of the need for increasing the availability of trained human resources to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the guidelines and directions have been issued in consultation with the National Medical Commission and the Indian Nursing Council, the Centre said.

“It is submitted that depending upon the progress in this direction, the Central Government shall consider other incentives without compromising with the merits which can never be compromised in the field of medicine,” it said.

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