The Supreme Court on Monday observed that hospitals in the country have become large industries now thriving on human distress and it is better that they be shut down.
“Do we look at hospitals as a real estate industry, or as a service to humanity?” asked Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah.
“Hospitals have become a large industry now based on human distress. We cannot allow them to prosper at the cost of human lives. Let such hospitals be closed and allow the state to bolster health care facilities. Let not such hospitals operate in buildings with four rooms etc.,” said Justice Chandrachud while noting that a number of hospitals don’t adhere to fire safety norms.
Justice Chandrachud gave an instance where one patient who had recovered from COVID-19 and was to be released from the hospital the next day was burnt alive and two nurses also died because of fire in the hospital.
“These tragedies have unfolded in front of our eyes. Are these hospitals are real estate industry or providing service to humanity?” asked the Bench.
The Supreme Court was hearing a suo motu case regarding the proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and dignified handling of dead bodies in the hospitals and issue concerning fire tragedies in COVID-19 hospitals across the country.
The Bench pulled up the Gujarat government for failing to follow its directions with regard to fire safety norms in hospitals, while referring to a notification issued by the government extending the deadline till June 2022 for hospitals to adhere to the norms to correct building bye-law violations.
“You say hospitals don’t have to adhere till 2022 and people will continue dying and be burnt,” the Bench observed.
It also took exception to the fact that a report by a commission on the issue of fire safety in hospitals was filed in a sealed cover. “What is this report in a sealed cover by commission etc.? It is not a nuclear secret,” said Justice Chandrachud.
The apex court had ordered fire-safety audits and other illegalities by hospitals across India after fires in COVID-19 dedicated hospitals in Gujarat and Maharashtra had killed scores of patients.
Justice Chandrachud said that by the December 18, 2020, judgment of this court, all states were directed to appoint nodal officers in each hospital to ensure fire safety norms are followed. COVID-19 hospitals who don’t have NoC from the fire department appropriate action was to be taken. On July 8, 2021, the Gujarat government passed a notification extending deadline to June 2022.
“40 hospitals in Gujarat were held liable and they came to High Court. Later, the government order was that no action should be taken against hospitals for violation of fire safety. Such an order is a contempt of this court,” observed the top court.
The Bench asked the state of Gujarat to explain why this notification was brought into force and be placed on record.
The state of Gujarat shall also file before this court a comprehensive statement showing audits which were conducted in pursuance with December 2020 judgment of this court regarding fire safety, ordered the apex court.
The apex court posted the matter for hearing after two weeks. ANI