The Supreme Court on Thursday directed that elderly people be given priority in admissions at private hospitals besides at government medical institutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and RS Reddy modified its earlier order of August 4, 2020, by which it had directed only government hospitals to give priority in admission and treatment of elderly people looking at their vulnerability to coronavirus.
“We direct that the priority with reference to admission contemplated in order dated August 4, 2020 to the elderly people should also be given in the private hospitals. List the matter after four weeks,” the bench said in its order.
During the hearing, senior advocate Ashwani Kumar, petitioner in-person, told the bench that in order dated August 4, last year this Court had directed that priority with reference to admission be given to the elderly people in the Government hospital only.
He said that priority in admission to the elderly people should be given in all private hospitals as well since it is mostly private hospitals which cater most of the population in the country.
The bench took note of submissions made by Mr Kumar that except Odisha and Punjab no other state has given details about the steps taken in pursuance of the earlier directions issued by the top court on his plea.
The top court granted three weeks’ time to all the states to respond to the fresh suggestions made by Mr Kumar to provide relief to the elderly people.
Mr Kumar submitted that the states need to issue fresh Memorandum of Procedures (MoPs) in pursuance to the directions issued by the court.
He submitted that all the State Governments be directed to issue necessary procedures incorporating the directions issued by this Court regarding two Departments that is Health Department and Social Welfare Department.
He said that incorporating the directions in the MoP shall serve greater public interest and purpose.
Mr Kumar, who is a former union minister, has sought directions with regard to elderly people saying they need more care and protection amid the pandemic.
The top court had last year directed that all eligible old age persons should be regularly paid pension and states should provide them necessary medicines, masks, sanitisers and other essential goods in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top court had said that looking at their vulnerability to coronavirus, elderly people should be given priority in admission in government hospitals and in the event of any complaint made by them, the hospital administration shall take immediate steps to remedy their grievances.
Mr Kumar had earlier submitted that older people, who are living alone, are “worst sufferers” and they are not able to get medicines, masks, sanitisers and other essential goods.
While seeking direction for timely payment of old age pension to those who are receiving it, he had said that “caregivers of these people” are not equipped with personal protection equipment and are untrained.
The top court had said that it had already issued directions on December 13, 2018 in the matter and those directives were needed to be complied with by all concerned, including the states.
In its December 2018 verdict, the top court had said that statutory rights of over 10 crore elderly persons in India must be recognised and implemented.
It had directed the centre to obtain information from all states and Union Territories about the number of old age homes in each district and had also suggested a relook at the pension for the elderly so as to make it more realistic.
Emphasising on the social justice aspect, the top court had said that the state is obligated to ensure that right to live with dignity, shelter and health of citizens, including the elderly, are not only protected but also enforced.
It had also directed the centre to obtain information from all the states about the medical facilities and geriatric care available to senior citizens in each district.