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Coronavirus: Goa Bench of Bombay HC issues notice to state on issue of inadequate medical preparedness

Shruti Mahajan

The Bombay High Court's Goa Bench has issued notice to the state government after taking note of a letter written by two law graduates alleging lack of medical preparedness in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Shortly after aw graduates Jay Mathew and Gauravvardhan AS Nadkarni wrote a letter to Bombay High Court Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari, the Goa Bench of the High Court issued notice to the state government.

In the letter written by the duo, the Chief Justice was urged to take suo motu cognizance of the Goa government's inadequate medical preparedness at a time when there is a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

"The Courts have always stood as the guardian and protector of Fundamental Rights of the citizens... We fear the unpreparedness by the State Government in dealing with this pandemic and therefore are appealing to your Lordship to take appropriate action."
Letter to Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari

As on Friday, March 27, Goa has recorded three positive cases of Coronavirus, with each of the infected persons having returned from abroad. Despite the severity of this global pandemic which has resulted in lockdowns of unprecedented magnitude, the state of Goa is not adequately prepared, the two young lawyers fear. The letter goes on to state,

"The heartbreaking lessons of Italy, Spain and the United States have shown us how important it is to be prepared and not underestimate the severity of this outbreak. Moreover, these are countries with the best healthcare systems. Therefore, the State Government ought to vigorously take measures to ensure preparedness by actively testing people for community spread and setting up quarantine facilities with requisite medical equipment."

After PM Narendra Modi declared a nation-wide lockdown on March 25, "the same can be seen to be flouted in the State of Goa", the letter says. While the Goa Bench of the High Court is already addressing the issue pertaining to availability of essential items and commodities during the lockdown, the main concern of the duo was to highlight the shortcomings of the state as regards medical preparedness.

"There does not seem to be any Formal Standard prescribed for the Doctors and the urgency of the same can be inferred from this unsettling scenario wherein two doctors at the public hospital have been said to be quarantined because of the inability in maintaining proper standard of care while dealing with potential coronavirus positive patients in Goa."

Letter to Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari

It is claimed that there are unauthorised testing facilities within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, which is a hotspot of tourism in India.

In light of the prevelant conditions, the letter says that the following details need to be made available by the State government to the public:

A well drafted and authorised “Standard Treatment Guideline or Standard Protocol for Treatment,” with special notice to the safety of Doctors.

A complete report on the physical preparedness namely, the number of places of isolation, the number of beds at such a place, the number of ventilators at such a place, the availability of protective gear for the Doctors, and other medical staff etc.

The communication and readiness to include the Private hospitals and clinics for treatment and testing as done in several other States.

The state not only needs to ensure availability of isolation wards, but also adequate medical staff, ventilators, and inclusion of private hospitals in providing isolation treatment for COVID-19 patients, the letter adds.

The state of Goa effectively implemented the call for Janta Curfew, the letter says, but has lacked in medical preparedness in these dire times. Therefore, the intervention of the Court was sought by the two young lawyers.

The Bench of Justice MS Sonak directed for the letter to be taken judicial note of and converted the same into a PIL. The Court will hear the case for admission on Monday, March 30.

Read the Order:

Jay Mathew vs State of Goa (medical preparedness on Corona) - 27.03.2020
Jay Mathew vs State of Goa (medical preparedness on Corona) - 27.03.2020

Read the letter to CJ BP Dharmadhikari:

Letter to The Hon'ble Chief Justice, High Court at Bombay.pdf
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