The Supreme Court has asked the Center on Wednesday to direct the states to pay healthcare workers who are treating the COVID-19 patients.
The Court has asked the Center to file a report on the payments within a week. The Court has also said that non-compliance of the order will be viewed in a serious light. It has also been said that healthcare staff who are involved in fighting the infection should not be denied quarantine facilities.
The Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, appeared for the Center during the hearing. He said that the Government has also already issued a circular to the State governments to pay healthcare workers. He also said that within 24 hours, a directive will also be issued. Now, the Chief Secretaries of the States will be held responsible to ensure the payment of timely salaries.
Mehta also said that the non-payment of salaries will be deemed as a criminal offense under the NDMA Act.
A PIL filed by Dr. Arushi Jain was being heard by the Court. She had urged the court in her PIL to direct the government to take over empty hotels, guesthouses, etc. These should be used as quarantine facilities for the frontline medical workers.
The PIL also challenged the central government’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers which ended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for doctors. This SOP was issued on 15 May.
Extension of the quarantine will be based on the healthcare worker’s individual profile.
Dr. Jain was represented by senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan and advocate Mohit Paul.
The government will also write to all states and union territories to provide alternate accommodations to all health workers.
The apex court had asked the government in its previous hearing to take care of the health workers’ safety needs who are involved in the war against COVID-19. The court said that the nation cannot afford to have dissatisfied soldiers in the fight.
Justice S K Kaul sitting with Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that this situation was like a war. The country cannot have dissatisfied soldiers in the war that is being made against Corona. The Court has also ordered to channel extra money into this issue.
An affidavit has been issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the court. The affidavit informs that both the central as well as state governments are giving the highest priority to the protection of doctors and healthcare workers.
It also listed the steps taken by the Ministry. The steps included the promulgation of an ordinance prohibiting violence against healthcare workers.
In the past few weeks, several reports have come to the fore about the non-payment of salaries to doctors and healthcare workers. In Delhi government hospitals, doctors of Hindu Rao and Kasturba Hospital threatened mass resignation if their dues were not cleared.