KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday directed eight major hospitals, including five private health facilities, in the provincial metropolis to continue their outpatient department (OPD) and emergency services in the larger public interest.
The three public hospitals — Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) — and five private hospitals — Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Liaquat National Hospital (LNH), South City Hospital, National Medical Centre (NMC) and Dr Ziauddin Hospitals — were impleaded as respondent in a petition filed against non-provision of treatment to general patients at the government and private health facilities due to Covid-19 outbreak.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the acting chief executive officer of the Sindh Healthcare Commission (SHCC) to be in attendance on May 19.
The bench further sought specific replies from the health facilities on the next hearing regarding their contentions that the OPDs and emergency services were opened.
Earlier, the bench had put the federal and provincial health authorities, the three major government hospitals and five private hospitals of the city on notice for May 13.
SHC disposes of petition challenging ban on Yaum-i-Ali procession
On Wednesday, an assistant attorney general sought more time to submit a reply of the federation through the national health services ministry while the additional advocate general-Sindh (AAG) submitted the reply of the provincial government.
Lawyers for the AKUH, LNH and South City Hospital submitted that these hospitals were already providing emergency and OPD services.
The bench reissued notices to the Ziauddin Hospital, NMC and ASH for the next hearing since none of them was present on Wednesday. The court directed their directors and medical superintendents to ensure the presence of their representatives on the next date.
An assistant director of the JPMC and the deputy medical superintendent of the CHK were present. They also requested time to file comments.
Both the officials also submitted that their emergency services and OPDs were opened. However, petitioners’ lawyer contested this assertion.
Thereafter, the bench sought specific replies from the respondents on this point and directed all the eight hospitals, impleaded as respondents in the petition, to continue their OPDs, first aid and emergency services in the larger public interest.
Two lawyers approached the SHC submitting that the government and private hospitals were avoiding providing first aid or any other kind of treatment to general patients after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The petitioners, Asim Iqbal and Nadeem Shaikh, further argued that instead of providing first aid or emergency treatment to patients suffering from different diseases, accidents or other sudden ailments, the health facilities were asking them to first provide the result of their coronavirus test, which delayed the treatment and not only caused death of several patients but also spread panic in the public that they would not be attended at hospitals in any emergency situation.
The SHC on Wednesday disposed of a petition regarding Yaum-i-Ali procession after provincial authorities denied having issued any notification to ban such gatherings.
The home department also informed the SHC that all kinds of religious processions and rallies were made part of the April 23 order about Ramazan’s Taraweeh allowed under standard operating procedures (SOPs) as per agreement with ulema.
The petition was filed by Pasban-i-Aza Pakistan general secretary Agha Ali Haider challenging the home department’s April 27 notification banning all gatherings including processions to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali during the month of Ramazan.
When the matter came up for hearing before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar on Wednesday, the focal person of the home department, Amanullah Zardari, submitted that in view of the prevalent Covid-19 pandemic situation the governments across the globe including Muslim countries issued directions to limit the congregational prayers in holy mosques and other sites.
Thus, the Sindh government also found it expeditious to take adequate measures to mitigate the risks/slowdown of the spread of Covid-19 contagion, he said, adding that regarding the restrictions on religious activities, the provincial government also sought input of religious leaders and scholars from all schools of thought who unanimously announced that if deemed necessary for medical reasons, the government may place any restrictions on the number of persons offering prayers in mosques.
The AAG as well as representative of the home department clearly stated that the notification challenged by the petitioner was never issued by the home department and the notification attached with the petition was fake.
However, they said that the federal government was in negotiating at the national level and provinces would give input and follow the federal government’s policy that may be applied by provinces as per the situation on ground and commitment given by the organisers in the wake of Covid-19.
The focal person for the home department had also produced the copy of “Order–Addendum” issued on May 12, which said, “In continuation and partial modification of vide order No. SO(Jud-I)HD/8-1(04)/2020-Corona-SOPs dated 23rd April, 2020 ‘Order-Ramzan Taraweeh as per agreement with Ulemas’, following religious practices shall also deem to be included: All kind of Religious Gatherings, Processions and Rallies.”
The petitioner and the intervener submitted that in view of the order/addendum the home department had already included all kinds of religious gatherings, processions and rallies in the “Order-Ramzan Taraweeh as per agreement with Ulemas” which was issued by the provincial government on April 23 keeping in mind 20-point SOPs formulated in view of the consultation between the president of Pakistan and religious scholars.
The bench observed that since the impugned order/notification was said to have never been issued by the home department and a clear statement in writing had been given to this effect, therefore, the petition had become infructuous and was disposed of accordingly along with the pending applications.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2020