New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought response of the Centre, Aam Aadmi Party government and Indian Nursing Council on a PIL alleging that nurses in private hospitals were not being provided proper protection equipment to guard against COVID-19 infection.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the Ministry of Health, Delhi government and the Indian Nursing Council seeking their stand on the plea by an NGO which alleged that nurses in private hospitals and clinics were being given used PPE kits.
Central government standing counsel Anil Soni, appearing for the Health Ministry, confirmed the order of the court.
The plea by Distress Management Collective, which claims to be a group of social workers, health professionals, lawyers, retired bureaucrats and retired judges, has alleged that the Centre and the Delhi government have a "discriminatory approach" towards nurses in private hospitals and nursing homes as compared to those working in state-run healthcare facilities.
It has further alleged that there is "blatant violation" of the human rights of nurses and other health workers in private nursing homes/hospitals registered under the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1953 and Rules of 2011.
"The worst hit are nurses who are giving care to the patients at bedside without personal protective equipment (PPE), N-95 mask, gloves, etc. especially in private nursing home in Delhi and other parts of the country especially when there is spike in asymptomatic COVID cases," the collective has said.
It has also claimed that the private management which runs these nursing homes/hospitals "are maintaining nil or meagre inventory of requisite stock of safety equipments" and are not exercising basic precautions for safety and security of their healthcare workers.
The petition further claimed that the Centre and Delhi government "are not taking any action despite many representations by the nurses individually and collectively".
"The respondent governments should not be allowed to compromise the health and life of nurses working in private sector leaving it to the whims and fancies of the private management of the nursing homes.
"The discriminatory approach in implementation of the guidelines/ policies of safety for government employed nurses and that of private employed nurses vis-a-vis life and safety protection is unreasonable and arbitrary," the petition has said.
It has contended that nurses in private and government hospitals perform identical or similar duties and are therefore, entitled to the same safety norms and protocols.
The petition has sought directions extending the benefit of the Delhi government's medical safety and safeguard guidelines, issued on April 20, to the nurses in all private hospitals and nursing homes "in letter and spirit".
The plea has also sought a direction to INC to form a committee to audit/inspect available stock of medical safety equipment, including PPE kits, in private hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi and the national capital region.
Besides that, it has also urged the court to direct the Centre to collect data of all private hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi and details of nurses and doctors infected by COVID-19.
The petition also wants that all the private sector nurses are covered under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package of insurance protection and to ensure that proper psycho-social support is provided to them.