New Delhi, July 9
The Delhi High Court on Thursday told the ICMR and AAP government that many homeless mental ill persons are institutionalised or in shelter homes and therefore, traceable, so there was no need for their identity proof or phone numbers to test them for COVID-19.
A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said “we should not miss out these people” and the mentally ill homeless persons on the streets also “should be looked after”.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, who appeared for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), to consult its officials on what can be done to address this aspect.
“Once addressed it should also be communicated to all the hospitals,” the Bench said and gave the ICMR time till July 24 to find a solution and inform the court by way of an affidavit.
The order came after the Institute for Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), represented by advocate Tushar Sannu, told the court there were two hurdles in testing the mentally ill persons admitted with it.
Sannu said that according to the ICMR advisory of June 19 every person who was to be tested for COVID-19 has to provide a government issued identity proof and should have a valid phone number for tracing and tracking the individual and his/her contacts.
He said that the majority of the mentally ill persons would not be able to satisfy either of these conditions and therefore, they cannot be tested for COVID-19.
IHBAS has suggested that the ICMR guidelines be suitably modified to address the hardship faced by the mentally ill homeless persons.
The high court was hearing a PIL by lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal seeking directions to ICMR and Delhi Government to issue guidelines for COVID-19 testing of mentally ill homeless persons in the national capital.
In its response to the plea, ICMR has said that in its advisory dated June 23, point of care diagnostic assay in combination with gold standard RT/PCR test is recommended for persons with neurological disorders, whether hospitalised, seeking hospitalisation or residing in hotspot areas.
Besides that, the advisory also suggests sero-survey by ELISA test of people staying or working in slums with very high population density with poorly ventilated buildings or structures and those persons staying in institutional settings like old age homes, orphanage, asylums and shelters for the homeless, ICMR has said.
Delhi Government, in its affidavit, has said that it was adhering to the ICMR advisory of June 19 which mandates that all patients being tested by any method must furnish one government-issued photo identity proof and a mobile number.
It also said that “in the absence of any specific guidelines or rules for the testing of homeless mentally ill or suspected mentally ill persons, the Delhi Government was trying its best to do all that is necessary for the homeless persons”.
IHBAS has also filed an affidavit, through Sannu, giving details of steps taken by it to look after the mentally ill homeless persons.
It has said that it has taken in all those mentally ill persons, having flu-like symptoms, who are awaiting COVID-19 test results and has “placed them in isolation rooms in its private ward complex as per National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) norms”.
“However, the number of such patients kept increasing and there was a need for larger facility for accommodation of such persons,” it has said.
Besides that, it has also “started a Preventive Isolation Facility (PIF) in the first floor of its psychiatry block (separate entry and exit) wherein 8 rooms with attached washrooms were available with requisite precaution and safety in compliance of all guidelines”.
It has further said that capacity of the PIF has been expanded to 16 beds.
IHBAS has said that all patients, including the homeless destitute persons with mental illness or suspected mental illness, are being admitted since April 24 and those testing positive for COVID-19 are being shifted to designated COVID hospitals with all precautions and safety measures. PTI
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