The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday sought details from the Union and state governments regarding the distribution and procurement of Remdesivir vials from the seven companies permitted to provide the anti-viral drug to different states, including Maharashtra. It also sought to know the parameters being followed by authorities for distribution of the injections.
This came after the HC was informed that while Maharashtra has reported nearly 40 per cent of the total Covid-19 cases across the country, it was not being allotted Remdesivir by the Centre as per its requirement.
Finding “arbitrariness” in district-wise distribution of Remdesivir in Maharashtra, the HC said it needs to be “stopped forthwith”. The state-level committee that looks into distribution of Covid-19 drugs should ensure “fair and proportionate distribution by following the principle that where the requirement is higher, supply shall also be higher”, it added.
The HC also directed the Maharashtra government to immediately release 10,000 vials of Remdesivir for Covid-19 hospitals in Nagpur.
The directions came while the HC was hearing a suo motu PIL drawing the attention of the court to the short supply of drugs and oxygen to Nagpur region.
A division bench of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Shriram M Modak observed that the Covid-19 scenario has turned to its “worst-ever” and is of “gravest order”. Raising concerns over insufficient beds, lack of supply of oxygen or life saving drugs, the HC observed that there is dearth of medical and paramedical staff to treat Covid-19 patients, as the spike was “steepest” in Nagpur.
Amicus Curiae S P Bhandarkar, assisting the court, said that while on April 16, Thane was allotted 5,328 vials of Remdesivir against its 2,664 Covid-19 hospital beds, Nagpur only received 3,326 vials against 8,250 beds.
The bench noted, “We do not understand the logic behind such a distribution. This disparity of allocation of Remdesivir vials has occurred only because there has been no such rationale behind their distribution among various districts by the state-level committee. It was perhaps due to consideration of factors by the Committee which may not be relevant to the whole issue.”
“We would be failing in our duty if we do not remind the state government of its solemn obligation by saving human lives by doing whatever possible,” it added.
Addressing the “major concern” of shortage of oxygen, the court said that a long-term solution lies in increasing production. It directed the state and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) commissioner to grant permissions to private Covid-19 hospitals interested in setting up their own oxygen generation units. “If some of the hospitals apply for allocation of adjoining government land, the same shall be made available on payment of necessary market value without any delay,” it said.
Also, the bench said that hospitals desiring to set up small oxygen plants and procure concentrators online should be allowed to do so. “…oxygen plants and units can always be set up at government hospitals as a lot of space is already available with them,” it added.
The HC further ordered temporary healthcare facilities should be set up to accommodate the Covid-19 patients waiting outside government hospitals in Nagpur. It warned medical and paramedical personnel as well as organisations, who fail to comply with its orders, that it “would not hesitate in issuing necessary punitive orders, including those of their arrests”.