A Telangana High Court bench, comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, today grilled the KCR government over the latter's handling of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The HC has been keeping a close eye on the state government's handling of the pandemic and has pulled it up several times
in the recent past when left dissatisfied with its efforts.
At today's hearing too, the bench seemed less than pleased with the government, pointing out that the latter had failed to comply with many of the directives issued to it during earlier hearings on the pandemic.
The Chief Justice stated that the government had not bothered to submit the data that the court had sought from it in previous hearings, including information regarding the number of RTPCR tests and rapid antigen tests that had been conducted in Telangana so far.
Further, the government was admonished for the dip in the rate of testing in Telangana. Data shows that though the HC has repeatedly indicated to the state's officials that about 1 lakh tests must be conducted daily, only about 50,000 tests are actually being conducted per day. Castigating the government for the shortfall, the bench said that between May 1, when approximately 76,000 samples were collected, and May 14, when only 50,000 tests were conducted, the testing in the state had fallen drastically. It asked the government to take steps to rectify this at the earliest.
"The state government has repeatedly been instructed to conduct 1 lakh tests daily
. However, this order seems to have been entirely ignored by the government," the bench observed.
Kohli and Reddy also questioned the state administration on its decision to entirely suspend the immunisation drive which will affect those over 45 years of age awaiting their second injections.
(Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao today announced that the state has suspended the vaccination drive for an unknown spell as there is a vaccine shortage. He explained that the step was necessitated due to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's "failure" to provide injections for the drive.)
Talking about the availability of treatment facilities, the HC asked the government whether it was distributing steroids in the home isolation kits
it was providing to patients. After the government failed to furnish any information on this matter, the Chief Justice asked that steroids not be included in the kits as the rising number of mucormycosis cases in the state was fast becoming a matter of concern. The directive comes after steroid use has been linked to the development of mucormycosis in Covid-19 patients.
The KCR regime was asked to update its real-time online list of hospitals providing Covid-19 treatment and the number of beds available for the same as the current list was not an updated one and furnished "wrong information".
Besides this, the bench spoke to the state government about its plans to protect recently orphaned children from the threats of illegal adoptions and trafficking. Asking that the matter be treated as a priority, it instructed the women's development and child welfare department to devise a plan to address the issue, and to submit an affidavit outlining the same.
The government was instructed to also include the teachers who had tested positive after being put on election duty in the category of frontline warriors. Saying that so far about 500 such teachers had contracted the disease, and that some had even lost their lives, the bench told the government to extend every benefit and treatment facility provided to frontline warriors to the affected teachers as well.
Also, the TRS government was asked to look into the prices being charged for treatment services by private healthcare providers in Telangana after the number of complaints from patients and their attendants regarding the high cost of treatment
continued to rise.
Though the government had, in June 2020, released a GO clearly indicating caps on the rates of certain Covid-19 treatment services in the state, the bench alleged that most private hospitals were ignoring the order, and were "fleecing" patients. In this regard, it told the government to revise the "now-outdated" price caps. A new GO would have to be released in the next 48 hours, it told the government.
The bench, however, did express its appreciation for the way the current lockdown
was being implemented in the state.
After this, the hearing was adjourned till June 1. Advocate General B S Prasad was asked to ready all the details the court had asked for in the interim so they could be examined at the next hearing.