By Ishaan Seth
The Ministry of Health and Family affairs have told the Supreme Court that is the doctor’s own responsibility to protect himself from COVID-19. This statement was made in response to a plea, questioning the centre’s new guidelines for frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers which have ended the 14-day mandatory quarantine for them.
The Ministry of Health has submitted that while the Hospital Infection Control Committee in the health facility is responsible for implementing the Infection Prevention and Control activities, but the final responsibility lies with healthcare workers. It is their responsibility to train themselves and take all measures in preventing the infection.
The Centre has further stated that the Petitioner has given no evidence suggesting doctors were being tested positive for COVID-19 in spite of wearing PPE and that the conclusions drawn were merely a hypothesis.
On May 29, a Bench of Justice comprising Ashok Bhushan, SK Kauland MR Shahtook the affidavit filed by the doctor in her pending petition on record and gave Solicitor General Tushar Mehtatime to file the Centre’s reply by the following week.
The plea by the doctor initially demanded separate residential facilities for frontline healthcare workers dealing with COVID19 so that they could be accommodated closer to hospitals.
Thereafter, another affidavit, filed in the same case through Advocates Mithu Jain and ArjunSyal, noted that on May 15 that the Directorate General of Health Services, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, had issued an advisory for managing healthcare workers working in COVID and Non-COVID areas of the hospital providing guidance on preventive measures, isolation and quarantine of health care functionaries.
The Centre in its reply states that if the healthcare professionals safeguard themselves, they are at no higher risk than a common man. However, for high exposure cases, a 14-day quarantine remains in the rule book.
The Government’s reply further states that this risk assessment approach was in line with the guidelines issued by Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, USA.
The reply also suggests that if a doctor wears the PPE, then they stand protected against any potential exposure and subsequent infection.