‘Universal vaccination, dashboard for hospital beds, coordination on oxygen needed’
The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday issued an advisory to the Centre and States on ensuring rights during the second wave of the pandemic, stating that gaps were “apparent in the system related to patients’ access to life-saving healthcare”.
In a letter to the Health and Family Welfare Ministry Secretary and Chief Secretaries, NHRC secretary general Bimbadhar Pradhan said the Commission issued the advisory taking into account the reports of human rights violations, particularly denial of the right to access healthcare. The advisory would be in addition to the earlier one issued in September 2020. The authorities were asked to implement the recommendations and submit reports within four weeks.
The advisory said “reporting on COVID cases or related deaths should be encouraged to portray the correct picture and magnitude of the problem to help the government”.
Among the immediate steps to be taken by the government, the NHRC said the Centre and States must coordinate to provide “continuous, rapid and seamless logistics to meet the demand of oxygen, essential medicines and devices in all healthcare establishments”. The advisory also said a single point of contact should be established, particularly for oxygen.
A COVID-19 patient who approaches a government health facility must be given treatment free of cost and those going to private hospitals that have no vacant beds, must be given emergency support till another arrangement is made with the help of a nodal officer of the government, it said. Help-desks at all hospitals and a universal dashboard for bed availability should be set up, the NHRC said.
The advisory said private hospitals should be directed by the government to provide care at “defined and affordable rates” and a cap on essentials like oxygen cylinders, ambulance services and medicines should be imposed.
The NHRC recommended improving the management of cremation and burial grounds by reducing the waiting time using an app.
On vaccination, it said “there should be universal coverage and non-discriminatory pricing of COVID vaccines in all health facilities in the country”.
The advisory said all health facilities treating COVID-19 patients should display a “COVID charter of patients rights”.