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    In comprehensive judgment, Allahabad HC passes slew of directions to improve public healthcare delivery in the state

    (Representative image)
    Date : 09/03/2018

    (PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION (PIL) NO – 14588 OF 2009 SNEHALATA SINGH@ SALENTA & ORS VS. STATE OF UP &ORS)

    The writ petition No. 14588 of 2009 was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, as a Public Interest Litigation, highlighting pathetic conditions of medical services in State of U.P, with special reference to the personal experience of petitioner Snehalata Singh, a poor woman brick kiln labourer who was traumatised and neglected in the primary health centre, leading to an obstetric fistula.  Snehalata was returned back home without treatment for fistula leaving her to face incontinence of urine and faeces.

    A public interest litigation filed in the Allahabad High Court highlighting the pathetic conditions of medical services in the state, with specific reference to Snehalata Singh. The PIL raised the following issues of concern;

    • The petitioner Snehalata was admitted in Purkanji Public Health Centre on February 13, 2007 for delivery. However soon after her delivery she was discharged.  Salenta soon found out that the negligent and disrespectful treatment and care that she had received in the PHC had left her with fistula (a condition which occurs if a woman’s labour becomes obstructed and creates a hole between the bladder or the urethra and the rectum due to the constant pressure of the foetus, which renders her incontinent).
    • The PIL further noted that Salenta that she was referred from one hospital to another but the treatment was ineffective. Her condition remained undiagnosed till May 2007.
    • A hospital in Muzaffarnagar Hospital diagnosed her with a Urethra- Vaginal Fistula but failed to provide her with any services due to paucity of funds.
    • Despite repeated request to the district officers, she did not receive any treatment. Finally on February 2008 Snehalata was finally operated upon at the King George’s Medical College, Lucknow, and finally after a month in March 2008 the catheters were removed.

    After this arduous, painful and humiliating process of attempting to seek treatment, HRLN filed a petition on her behalf, which pointed out that Right to health has been held to be an integral facet of meaningful right to life. In a landmark judgment on March 9, 2018 the High Court of Allahabad while hearing the case took a stern stance against the pathetic standards of healthcare in the state and commented “If in one word we have to describe State Medical Services, it is quite apt to use the word for its functioning on its destiny and fate — ‘RamBharose’,”

    The judgment further directs among several things increased vigilance and inspection of hospital standards, unfilled vacancies of medical and paramedical staff, non availability of drugs and services in the hospitals.  The court further noted that “though huge funds are spent in the name of welfare medical services undertaken by State but fact is that those services are not available to real needy people but swelling pockets of those who are supposed to serve.”

    To fix this, the court directed the CAG to establish a specialized audit team, which, in different phases and period, will audit medical colleges and hospitals within a year’s time and look at the pattern of fund utilisation, deficiencies and illegalities so that swift action can be taken against responsible authorities.

    Further, taking note of the behaviour of government employees ‘who frequently avail better private medical services and claim reimbursement from the state exchequer’, the court said that “no special VIP treatment” would be given to anyone, including high-level officials, political executives and dignitaries, and asked them to avail medical services from government hospitals like every other citizen.

    Read the full order here.
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