HC asks Goa to decide on leave extension for doc within a week

THE High Court of Bombay at Goa has asked the state government to take up discussions and decide within a week on relieving Dr Edwin Gomes — who worked with a team of four others for over 90 days straight after Covid-19 broke out in Goa — of his duty and to extend his leave.

Gomes hit the headlines earlier this month when he returned home after spending over 90 days working at the state’s lone Covid medical facility — ESI, Margao — as the head of a team of four other doctors. He had been relieved for three weeks and videos of his welcome by family and friends had gone viral on social media.

Soon after he returned home, Dr Gomes had tested positive for Covid-19 and had been shifted to a Covid care facility. He tested negative last test.

In her petition to the court, Dr Gomes’s wife Ubaldina Noronha, an associate professor in St Xavier’s College, has claimed he was not being relieved of his duties by the administration “having worked for 94 days without a break and assigned shifts” and that authorities were pressuring his to return to work.

The plea further added that, “The petitioner states the matter is of grave importance that the health workers working under covid-19 that their lives are protected and respected, and not be tossed from one end to another like a football.”

During the hearing, the bench of Justices MS Jawalkar and MS Sonak said the matter needs the attention of the state, considering “the yeoman’s services rendered by Dr Gomes during this difficult period and the valuable experience he has gained”, which the bench felt, will be “most valuable to the state administration, which is also engaged very actively in combating this unfortunate situation”.

The petition also pointed to three shifts — from 8 am to 8 am that Gomes and his team were made to work from March 29 to July 3, 2020, adding it is in “gross violation of the Ministry of Health, Government of India”.

The petition further added that Gomes was suffering from hypertension and that his age was a risk factor for Covid-19 infections.

The court, noting all the points, observed that an amicable settlement is in “public interest”. It asked the state’s health secretary to take the initiative to reach out to Gomes.

The court has also advised the two parties not treat the “matter as some adversarial litigation” asking them to look at the greater issue at stake and the “difficult period” in which the matter has come to the High Court.

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