New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) The Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that healthcare workers using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) stand adequately protected against any potential exposure and subsequent infection due to Covid-19.
In an affidavit, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said: “A healthcare worker properly protected by PPEs in workplace settings carries no additional risk to their families or children, as suggested or otherwise.”
The Centre said the number of Covid-19 cases is constantly increasing and at some point in time in the near future, apart from existing hospitals, a large number of temporary make-shift hospitals will have to be created. Therefore, conserving the healthcare workforce is needed in order to cater to the anticipated patient load.
A petition filed by a doctor, Arushi Jain, stating that resident doctors in government hospitals, after they complete 7/14 days on duty, are supposed to be quarantined, but currently doctors are being quarantined in places where they share room and bathrooms.
Jain’s counsel insisted that the Centre must change this arrangement and instead ensure they are accommodated where social distancing is feasible. Jain also pointed out that proper PPEs are not available for the doctors involved in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
“The petitioner has not placed even an iota of evidence, whatsoever, that the doctors are being diagnosed positive for Covid-19 even after using adequate PPE, appropriately”, said the Centre, insisting that in the absence of any empirical evidence, the contentions of the petitioner cannot be considered.
The Centre informed the apex court that experts have declined to entertain suggestions/grievances made by the petitioner.
The affidavit said its risk assessment approach is also in line with guidelines issued by Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, US that only high- risk exposure needs to be quarantined for 14 days. “Hence, mandatory quarantine of 14 days, after rostering duty of healthcare workers for 7/14 days is therefore not justified”, added the affidavit.
“It is submitted that as on date 99.34 lakh PPEs have been distributed by the Centre/states/UTs/Central institutions. Similarly, a total of 123.08 lakh N95 masks have been distributed by the Centre as on June 1. “All PPEs being procured are quality certified from nine designated labs of the Ministry of Textiles and Defence”.
The affidavit said the Health Ministry’s advisory of May 15 for managing healthcare workers working in Covid and non-Covid areas of hospitals has been a step in the right direction. The Health Ministry said the petition deserves to be disposed of in view of the protocols which are already in place.
The Health Ministry insisted that India being a member of WHO, it is obligatory on its part to consult WHO before promulgating any nationally applicable protocol/guidelines.