The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivor to immediately approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur with her petition challenging the conversion of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) into a hospital exclusively for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Seeking urgent intervention advocate Karuna Nundy, on behalf of the petitioner, today informed the Apex Court that the petitioner was a 68 year old gas victim who is on a ventilator and is in no position to leave BMHRC to go to another hospital. Nundy further argued that this hospital was set up under orders of the Supreme Court itself with a view to providing treatment and healthcare to victims of the devastating tragedy that damaged the health of around 5.7 lakh people in 1984.
The Bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao granted the petitioner leave to approach the High Court and disposed off the matter as Nundy informed that they would do so immediately.
On March 22, the Madhya Pradesh government, through its Health Department, issued an order to convert BMHRC into a centre to exclusively cater to COVID-19 patients. Pursuant to this, on March 24, the Director of BMHRC issued orders to the staff stating "health care services will be provided now only for COV-19 patients at BMHRC, Bhopal. All other health care services to be stopped with immediate effect till further orders."
The petition has challenged this order and action taken in compliance with the same. It is claimed that after the March 24 order, the Hospital began discharging patients from their Intensive Care, Surgical and Medical Wards on the very same day. It is further claimed that 86 such patients were discharged, "over 80 % of which were those with history of acute exposure to Union Carbide's poisonous gas".
The Court has also been apprised of the closure of Emergency Services of the Casualty Ward, closure of OPD in the main hospital and stoppage of Dialysis facilities along with details of numerous patients undergoing various procedures and suffering from severe conditions being denied treatment thereof.
It is informed that the petitioner, Munni Bee, underwent a tracheostomy, suffered from a heart attack and has been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the last 24 days. "She has also previously suffered a stroke and has diabetes and hypertension. These respiratory and other diseases have now become a hallmark for the Bhopal gas disaster victims."
Through her plea, she has expressed her apprehensions of being denied treatment in wake of the State government's directives. In fact, it is claimed that despite being under critical medical care, she has been asked to vacate the hospital to make way for COVID-19 patients.
She also argues that such an order would further expose other such patients, who are already extremely vulnerable, to dangers of the novel corona virus.
"She faces a threat of being denied this treatment in view of certain directives of the state to provide support and treatment to patients of COVID 19…Actions which are not only denying treatment to patients like the Petitioner no.1 but is also exposing them to further dangers of the novel corona virus as their condition is already extremely vulnerable."
Asserting that the action of the MP government, and consequently the BMHRC, is violative of Articles 14 and 19 the Court has been urged to quash the concerned orders and direct that the COVID-19 isolation centre be shifted to Pulmonary Medicine Centre, Gas Relief Hospital, Jehangirabad or any other appropriate place.
The petitioner also seeks directions to the government to "develop and update clinical protocols with particular regard to victims of the Bhopal gas disaster for COVID-19 related morbidity for treatment in other hospitals with isolation facilities".