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"Hospitals have grown into a large industry that thrives on human suffering; they cannot be protected at the expense of citizens": Supreme Court

Justice Chandrachud Justice MR Shah health care centres

Although the Supreme Court stressed that States have to offer necessary permissions for improved hospitals and health care centres, it observed on Monday (July 19, 2021) that hospitals are now a huge industry and cannot be safeguarded at the costs of citizens to which the organisations are supposed to provide. 

Justice Chandrachud said, "Let's face it, hospitals have grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. Hospitals, like real estate, rely on human suffering to survive, and it's become a massive business. We can't defend them at the expense of the citizens they are supposed to serve." 

Justice Chandrachud further remarked referring to the homes and hospitals with no proper clarifications and NOCs and located in residential buildings that, "It is appropriate for such hospitals to be closed and the State to develop extra facilities. Let the government offer these amenities and care centres and better hospitals. In those little residential buildings, we can't have them." 

A Division Bench Of Justice Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah was hearing its suo motu case regarding the incident which happened in Rajkot, Gujarat last year.

In response to an order issued by the Supreme Court on 18 December 2020 for such compliances in relation to maintenance and audit of fire safety measures in hospital, the Bench confronted the State of Gujarat for its decisions to notify hospitals about the timeline extension to correction of compliance. 

Judge Chandrachud spoke to the fire occurrence in the hospital in Rajkot and added, "There was one incidence of a patient recovering from COVID and releasing him the next day, and he perished of a fire! Two nurses who went and roasted alive in the washroom."

He noted, "These are human catastrophes that have occurred right in front of our eyes! And so for these hospitals we go on extending our time! Do we see hospital as an immobilisation industry or see it as a service to mankind. This is the problem. This is the problem." 

SG Tushar Mehta described the issue as follows: "Consider a ten-story building with a single doctor and a 4-5-bed hospital; those beds were then required for COVID therapy. Because the building did not have BU clearance, the hospitals were forced to close, resulting in a total of 30k beds becoming unavailable. As a result, a request was made to see if it was technically possible to provide for fire safety in that facility, which was discovered to be impossible." 

Justice Chandrachud responded, "There is no point in accepting the failings of these kinds of nursing institutions, which are not supposed to be there in the first place." SG Mehta explained, "This is not a justification, it's merely to dispel any idea that something was very unusually wrong."

"Our recommendation is that, if the Commission makes a recommendation, you make sure that corrective steps are taken. That is what commissions are for, and their recommendations must be followed."

He further stated that, "An ordinary citizen should not have the sense that the state administration is trying to protect persons who are breaking the law. The impression that may be gained from the notification is that it is illegal, that there is no NOC, that no action has been done in months, and that everyone should be delighted."

Lastly, Justice Chandrachud noted that "This is a human catastrophe that has occurred, with individuals dying as a result of the fire. We'll have a look at it in two weeks."

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