COVID-19: Plea in Calcutta HC seeks use of Telemedicine for remote diagnosis/treatment, adequate PPE kits, publication of State response
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COVID-19: Plea in Calcutta HC seeks use of Telemedicine for remote diagnosis/treatment, adequate PPE kits, publication of State response

"By not enforcing the telemedicine mechanism, the state is arbitrarily depriving patients living in the most remote areas from being treated by a qualified registered medical practitioner", the petition states.

Meera Emmanuel

A writ petition has been moved in the Calcutta High Court urging, inter alia, that directions be issued to the Government to implement telemedicine systems for the remote treatment of patients amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

Telemedicine is term used to denote the remote diagnosis or treatment of persons in need of medical care, without the medical professional having to be physically proximate to the patient. Telemedicine is made possible in the modern era with the use of technology.

The petition moved by Eshan Madhav Saha argues that “by not enforcing the telemedicine mechanism, the state is arbitrarily depriving patients living in the most remote areas from being treated by a qualified registered medical practitioner. This amounts to violation of article 14 and impinging the right of life and dignity of such patients. (sic)”

He goes on to point out that the use of telemedicine may be the safest method to diagnose COVID-19.

Another prayer made by the petitioner concerns the provision of adequate protective gear for health professionals working on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19.

Madhav argues that there has been a constant delay and failure on the part of the State in providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to health professionals, which is is prima facie illegal, and arbitrary in nature.

“(The) State on account of its inaction has put the doctors in harm’s way by making them potential/ suspected and susceptible carriers of the disease … inaction and failure of the state in providing these PPE kits amounts to jeopardizing and compromising public health”, the petitioner argues.

Further, the petition states,

“… it is absolutely imperative that, these kits and telemedicine services are provided considering the contagious nature and spread of the disease with absolutely no cure in place.”
Petitioner

This apart, the petitioner has also called for the publication of certain information regarding the State’s response to the pandemic in the interest of transparency I.e.

  • A list of exclusively designated hospitals marked for treatment of COVID-19 cases along with anti COVID-19 measures and protocols in place, as well as the Medical and Para-medical personnel available in these hospitals;

  • The list and rolls of all Registered Medical Practitioners including Junior Resident Doctors;

  • Creation of a special police helpline and government helpline to enable citizens and frontline workers/ doctors and registered medical practitioners to seek help with regards to COVID-19 cases;

  • A mechanism should be formulated and published regarding the system though which doctors can conduct remote diagnosis through software facilities to enable patients residing in the remotest of areas to have access to public health and treatment systems;

  • Detailed data (district wise) of the number of tests the State has conducted since from the beginning to the disease outbreak and disclose the number of COVID-19 testing kits, received, disbursed, deployed and the complete supply mechanism in a transparent manner;

  • Information regarding procurement and standards of testing and disbursement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided to all officers and staff members in the West Bengal Administration including the Municipal Personnel;

  • A portal exhibiting the geo-mapping of COVID-19 cases and areas where they have occurred in West Bengal along with real time data and analysis;

  • Details of sealing and cluster sealing of areas affected on account of COVID-19 cases, along with the mechanism and process deployed for such sealing

  • Details pertaining to compulsory testing of passengers at all points of entry into the State including ports, docks, stations, airports and any other border entry points of the State;

  • Details of adequate security measures in place for preservation of Law and Order situation and public safety in West Bengal and the Metropolitan Region of Kolkata;

  • Details of devolution of funds deployed by the State of West Bengal in combatting the said Pandemic, including details on resources procured and other logistical break up of the funds used.

The petitioner argues that such dissemination of information fulfils a triple purpose i.e.

  1. Utmost transparency in the State’s functioning in combatting the pandemic;

  2. Compliance with international standards and guidelines as issued and published by the World Health Organisation from time to time, and

  3. Prevention of the spread of any false information, misinformation and wrong information that could lead to mass hysteria and be repugnant to the measures to be taken to combat the pandemic.

The petition has been drawn by Advocate Rahul G Tanwani, assisted by Advocates Mrinalini Majumdar and Pramit Kr. Shree.

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