New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that hospitals have become large industries thriving on human distress, and it is better they are closed. The top court added state governments can provide better hospitals, instead of permitting private hospitals to operate from small residential buildings.
A bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said: "Hospitals have become large industries now based on human distress and we cannot let them prosper at the cost of lives. Let such hospitals be closed". The bench pulled up the Gujarat government for extending the deadline for hospitals in connection with building use permissions.
The bench cited that one patient had recovered from Covid and had to be released the next day, but he died due to fire, and also two nurses were burnt alive. "These are human tragedies which have unfolded before our eyes! Then, we go on extending time for these hospitals," he said.
The bench said hospitals have become a real estate industry, and instead of providing succour to patients in distress, it is widely felt they have become money minting machines, which fleece patients.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on his part, submitted before the bench that visualise the impact, if a 10-story building with 4-5 bedded hospital, which was required for Covid treatment now, doesn't have building use permission. Mehta added, resultantly hospitals were required to be closed and in total 30,000 beds could become unavailable.
Justice Chandrachud responded, there is no point in condoning lapses of these nursing homes which are not supposed to be in those buildings in the first place. Justice Shah added if any recommendation is made, you see to it that corrective measure is taken.
"Let the state provide those facilities and Covid care centres. We can't have them in these small residential buildings", said the bench.
Referring to a government notification that hospitals do not have to adhere to the norms till June 2022, the bench said: "Once a mandamus is there, it cannot be overridden by an executive notification like this! You now give a carte blanche and say hospitals don't have to adhere till 2022 and people will continue dying and be burnt..."
The top court strongly condemned a report by a commission on the issue of fire safety in hospitals that was filed in a sealed cover. "What is this report in a sealed cover by the commission, etc.? It is not a nuclear secret," said Justice Chandrachud. The top court told the Gujarat government to withdraw the notification giving relaxation to hospitals.
In December last year, the court had directed the Centre to submit data from all states on fire safety audits carried out in hospitals. The court noted that, although different states and union territories have taken measures and conducted inspections, further audits were required and asked the state government to constitute a committee to carry out a fire audit of each Covid hospital at least once in a month, in each district. The bench listed the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
The Court was hearing a suo motu case concerning fire tragedies in Covid-19 hospitals across the country following incidents in Rajkot and Ahmedabad.