States should implement Centre’s SOP on Covid-19, says SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said state governments are obligated to implement the Centre’s standard operating procedure (SOP) on the Covid-19 pandemic, including on transporting a confirmed case or a person suspected of infection.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said all states should follow the SOP and take appropriate measures in connection with augmenting the capacity of ambulances.

The observation by the bench was made during the hearing of a PIL filed by an organisation named ‘Earth’, which claimed that ambulances are charging excessively from Covid-19 patients, therefore the state governments should fix charges for them.

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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before the bench that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued the SOP on this issue and all state governments would have to implement it.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the SOP does not cover the pricing aspect of ambulances and hospitals are charging patients arbitrarily. At this, the bench observed that the states would have to fix reasonable charge for the ambulance services for patients, and disposed of the plea.

According to the SOP issued by the Centre on March 29, there should be ambulances identified specifically for transporting suspected COVID patients or those who have developed complications, to the health facilities.

“Currently, there are two types of ambulances – ALS (with ventilators) and BLS (without ventilators). States may empanel other ambulances having basic equipment like that of BLS and use it for COVID patients. However, this must be ensured that strict adherence to cleaning and decontamination protocols given here in the guidance note need to be followed. The fleet in-charge or person designated by CMO/CS, will supervise its adherence,” said the SOP.

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