MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to tell if there existed a protocol to protect doctors, who are working round the clock to treat COVID-19 patients, from harassment at the hands of relatives of patients.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni asked the government to inform the court about the steps being taken to protect the doctors.
It said it will pass appropriate orders on Friday.
The court was hearing a bunch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) on management of resources related to COVID-19, and another on rising instances of attacks on doctors by relatives of patients.
During the hearing, the court was informed by advocate Rajesh Inamdar, counsel for one of the petitioners, that several doctors working in COVID-19 wards across the state had been increasingly receiving notices from the police following complaints by relatives of patients who were either unhappy with the treatment received, or in cases, where coronavirus patients had succumbed to the disease.
“Relatives of patients who die, go to the police with treatment chart and the Maharashtra government protocol on drug administration, because of which doctors, overworked, working in COVID wards, are receiving police notices.
There should not be knee-jerk reactions in initiating criminal action against doctors,” Inamdar said.
“If there is any difference between the two, if a certain drug is not prescribed, or if the exact sequence of drugs is not followed, they lodge a complaint,” he said.
Inamdar was referring to the protocol issued last year by the Maharashtra government that keeps getting revised from time-to-time and deals with the drugs and line of treatment that must be provided to COVID-19 patients.
A doctor representing the Indian Medical Association (IMA), who was also present in the hearing via video conferencing, then told the high court that “doctors were being attacked unnecessarily”.
He said that while doctors stuck to the protocol as much as possible, the administration of a particular drug, or a certain dose depended on the condition of a particular patient, his or her comorbidities, or response to the line of treatment etc.
, The doctor also said that sometimes doctors had to prescribe alternative drugs due to unavailability of those mentioned in the protocol.
“Doctors should not be held responsible for the inefficiencies of the government in procuring drugs on time,” he said.
The HC then said that doctors, already overworked due to the pandemic, must not have to face such harassment, or spend any time giving explanations to the police.
“Doctors are working 24×7, wearing PPE kits. Thereafter, they are having to explain to police. Is there any government protocol?” it said.
It asked the Maharashtra Advocate General to assist the court on reliefs the court could offer to such doctors.