During the hearing of a PIL filed by Naresh Maimom against the Union government and others on Tuesday, advocate general of Manipur N Kumarjit stated that as of date, no machinery is in place to monitor how the oxygen supplies made to hospitals are being utilised.
He, however, said that the state government has already constituted a State Oxygen Management Team and it may be directed to monitor and track the use of oxygen supplies made to each individual hospital.
The court also observed that since the state government has already constituted a State Oxygen Management Team, it would ensure that needy patients are catered to and supplied oxygen, irrespective of their pull and status. The team would also be in a position to bring transparency to the entire exercise through ‘updates’ in newspapers, it said.
While directing the state government to take steps in this regard, the court further stated that such ‘updates’ would also shed light on the extent of the demand raised by each hospital in the state and the supply made, subject to availability of oxygen, on a day-to-day basis.
The practice of bringing out ‘updates’ in the newspapers would lend transparency to the entire process apart from keeping the public at large informed of the steps being taken by the government. These measures therefore signify welcome steps by the Government in the right direction, the court said.
The court appreciated that the state government has adopted the interim measure of constituting a team to deal with the current demand and the available supply of oxygen for COVID-19 patients.
At the same time, the court also observed that as there is no machinery as on date to monitor the treatment of patients inside a hospital, be it government-owned or private, it would be appropriate that the government takes necessary steps in that regard.
The advocate general of Manipur assured that the suggestion from the HC would be acted upon and a grievance redressal cell would be constituted in each and every hospital, wherein a member or representative of a local civil society organisation would be involved. The cell would then be in a position to address individual complaints, if any, against that hospital. The needful in this regard shall be done by the next date of hearing, he added.
The court further directed that as the State Oxygen Management Team constituted by the government would have to determine the supplies of oxygen to be made, pending constitution of a state-level committee through the National Task Force, it would be for each hospital concerned, including the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal, to place its current demand before the said team, basing on the number of patients admitted in that hospital who need oxygen. The team shall thereupon allocate the oxygen available to all the hospitals equitably, it said.
Stating that the construction of oxygen plants at Churachandpur and Thoubal districts is still underway and they have not yet been commissioned, Kumarjit assured to provide a firm date for the commissioning of these plants and also the details of other plants which are in the pipeline for augmenting oxygen supplies.
Further, ASG S Suresh appearing for the Union government sought time to go through the replies filed by the other respondents and thereafter file a reply.
The Union of India shall take into account the contents of the reply filed by the RIMS, Imphal, with regard to oxygen supplies, as the said Institute, though autonomous, is under its control, the court observed.
The court further observed that the Union of India shall also address the various aspects raised by the other respondents in their replies, including adequate financial assistance to the state of Manipur to meet the crisis occasioned by the second wave of this pandemic and the rising number of serious cases, requiring enhanced oxygen supplies.