* HC puts onus of COVID19 management on Expert Committee
* Says no room complacency, prepare for third wave
* No need to appoint judicial commission to inquire into deaths at GMC
* The statistics in the public domain placed by the State Authorities themselves indicate that from out of the total number of 3013 (as of 24/6/2021) COVID-19 related deaths in the State of Goa so far, almost 1481 deaths took place in May 2021. Besides, the statistics reveal that almost 740 deaths took place at the Goa Medical College itself.
PANAJI: The Bench of Bombay High Court at Goa has directed the three-member committee to look into Oxygen crisis to submit it report within 4 weeks.
“From the material placed on record before us, we found that in May 2021, there were serious issues relating to the supply of oxygen at the Goa Medical College. There was no clarity as to whether there was a deficiency in the oxygen reserves or whether there were logistical difficulties in the matter of actual supply of oxygen to the patients,” the court observed adding therefore, the court said, we were constrained to make orders and issue directions in this regard.
The court said that was also a situation where the second wave was, perhaps, at its peak and the number of patients admitted to the Goa Medical College was more than the bed capacity at the Goa Medical College.
“The statistics in the public domain placed by the State Authorities themselves indicate that from out of the total number of 3013 (as of 24/6/2021) COVID-19 related deaths in the State of Goa so far, almost 1481 deaths took place in May 2021. Besides, the statistics reveal that almost 740 deaths took place at the Goa Medical College itself,” it said.
According to us, the court says, some lessons will have to be learned from the unfortunate events of May 2021, so that the numerous causalities that arose, especially at GMC, may not have been in vain.
“The State Administration, guided by its Expert Committee, will have to anticipate the oxygen requirement and other difficulties in the supply chain, at this stage itself and, thereafter, take steps to ensure to the utmost extent possible, that there is no repetition of what happened in May 2021,” it said.
Court added, “Now that the tide of Covid 19 cases has ebbed, there is no scope for any complacency. Rather, this period must be utilized to make preparations to meet the projected consequences of a possible third wave of the pandemic. We are quite sure that the Expert Committee will guide the State Authorities accordingly and the State Authorities will also take necessary steps to step up the preparedness levels.”
The court said merely because the tide of the pandemic has presently ebbed, there is no reason for any complacency. Both, the Central Government, as well as the State Government will have to take steps to ensure compliance with the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court so that there is full preparedness to meet the potential third wave of the pandemic.
The State Administration, in its return, had referred to an order dated 13/5/2021 by which, it had constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.K. Mishra, Director, IIT, comprising, inter alia, Dr. V.N. Jindal, Ex-Dean, Goa Medical College, and Dr. Tariq Thomas, Secretary (Urban Development), as its Members to inquire into the oxygen supply issues at Goa Medical
By the order dated 13/5/2021, this Committee was given the mandate to submit its report within 3 days.
“The learned Advocate General, however, admitted that no such report has been submitted by the Committee, to date. He stated that some of the members of the Committee were themselves affected by COVID-related issues and, therefore, no report could be submitted as yet,” court order read.
The learned Advocate General, however, stated that the Committee will inquire into the issues and submit its report within a reasonable time.
“According to us, the report ought to have been submitted at the earliest, when, the issues relating to the supply of oxygen or logistics involved were at their peak. This is possibly the reason why the order dated 13/5/2021 required submission of the report within three days. Be that as it may, at least now the report should be submitted by this Committee within a reasonable period of a maximum of 4 weeks,” it said.
Further, the court said the findings in such report may not bind any parties as such, the report will at least assist the State Administration in effectively addressing the issues of oxygen supply at the Goa Medical College, so that the State Administration is well geared up to address the issues that may arise on account of the third wave of the pandemic.
“The State Administration to therefore prevail upon the Committee to submit its report at the earliest. The State Administration, including the Dean, Goa Medical College, and other Authorities to render full cooperation to this Committee in the matter of its inquiries and its report,” it said.
The report of this Committee is then directed to be placed before this Court.
On the issue as to whether the arrangements made by the State Administration for the supply of oxygen, including maintenance of buffer stocks, is adequate or not, the court felt that, that is a matter which will have to be considered by the Expert Committee and the State Task Force constituted by the State Government itself.
“These are not the matters which, at least ordinarily can be decided by this Court, in the first instance,” it said.
Medicines for Black fungus..
The next is the issue of an adequate supply of medicines and drugs necessary for COVID-19 or Mucormycosis treatments.
Again, the State Authorities have filed affidavits before us stating that there is no shortage, at least in so far as drugs and medicines necessary to combat COVID-19 is concerned. The Authorities have admitted that there is some shortage when it comes to Amphotericin B, a drug that is necessary to combat Mucormycosis (black fungus). The State Authorities have pointed out that this drug is controlled by the Central Government, through CDSCC and, there is a shortage not only in the State of Goa but throughout the country.
The issue as to whether stocks of medicines to combat COVID-19 or Mucormycosis being sufficient or not, is again an issue that will have to be decided by the Expert Committee and the State Task Force.
Non-reporting of deaths…
On the possible issue of under-reporting or non-reporting of COVID-19 deaths, the learned Advocate General has assured this Court that at least in Goa, there have been no cases of under-reporting.
“Having regard to the material placed before us, we do not think that there is any serious case of under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths made out by the Petitioners in any of these Petitions. Besides, we are satisfied that the State Authorities are quite alive to the importance of correct reporting of such deaths and the State.
Authorities have taken all efforts to see that by far, there is an accurate reporting of COVID-19 related deaths,” court said.
No to Judicial commission…
According to the court, it will not be appropriate to consider the issue of setting up a Judicial Commission to inquire into the deaths at the Goa Medical College in May 2021 or the issue of payment of compensation in these Petitions.
This is because there are no proper pleadings in any of the Petitions on this issue.
By merely filing some miscellaneous application, which is also quite vague, the Petitioners cannot seek such a relief. There are no particulars as to whether any of the victims have authorized any of the Petitioners to raise such a claim. In the state of such pleadings, we refrain from going into the issue of either appointment of a judicial commission, or the issue of payment of compensation.