NEW DELHI: Doctors and healthcare professionals are "warriors" in fight against coronavirus and have to be protected, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday even as the Centre assured that it is doing its best by providing them personal protective equipment (PPE) and other facilities.
The apex court suggested that the government should create a mechanism to solicit suggestions from people about how to go ahead on the issues related to COVID-19, including on providing treatment, regulatory mechanism for people working from home and also on lockdown.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat, hearing through video-conferencing three petitions seeking protective kits for doctors and healthcare workers amid coronavirus pandemic, was informed by the Centre that PPE kits and other requisite things are being arranged and it is taking steps in this regard.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who made it clear that he was not opposing the prayers made in these petitions, told the bench that doctors and healthcare professionals are "corona warriors" and government is ensuring their protection and safety along with their family members.
He also denied reports about salary cut of doctors and staffs of hospitals and said the Centre would write to all the states that no salary should be deducted for purchase of PPEs and masks.
"If anybody is doing something like this (salary cut of doctors and staffs), we will send police," Mehta told the bench, adding, "as an institutional response, we are doing this".
"The government and police will walk extra mile to protect doctors," Mehta said and added that to ensure safety of family members, doctors are being housed in hotels also.
During the hearing, the bench observed, "Why do you not create a mechanism at district level where nodal officers can be appointed to get suggestions from all persons?".
Responding to the query, Mehta said that they have a central control room which has officials from ministries of health, home and Ayush.
He said such control rooms are also there at state level and they are dealing with calls having suggestions and complaints.
"They (doctors and healthcare professionals) are warriors. They have to be protected," the bench observed, adding, "You have to think how to start production. Service sector is working from home. Their well being and mental health is also important".
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that he appreciate the stand of the Solicitor General but doctors are afraid and if medical professionals would not come forward, things would collapse.
Rohatgi also pointed out to the reports about corona positive patients escaping from hospitals.
Mehta said police pickets have been placed in all the hospitals to ensure that people, who should not be mixing with others, should not leave the hospital.
One of the petitions has highlighted the urgent need to provide WHO-graded protective gear to doctors, nurses and medical staff who are treating coronavirus patients across the country.
One of the pleas filed by Nagpur-based Jerryl Banait, who is a doctor by profession, has said that the Centre should ensure that World Health Organization-graded protective gear, including hazmat suits, PPE, starch apparels, medical masks, goggles, face shield, respirators and head covers, is made available to all health workers like doctors, nurses, ward boys, medical and para-medical professionals who are attending COVID-19 patients.
Another petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni has sought a direction to the Centre and state governments to resolve the issue of shortage of PPE kits for healthcare professionals to combat coronavirus.