The Delhi High Court pulled up the AAP government today for not clarifying whether every pregnant woman who goes to a hospital for delivery or urgent treatment is required to undergo the COVID-19 test, symptomatic or not, saying a genuine problem has been turned into a “bureaucratic nightmare”.
The high court also said if the test is required then sample collection and declaration of results should be done in a minimum period of time.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said it has given the Delhi government four to five opportunities since the filing of a PIL, seeking expeditious testing and results of pregnant women, but it has not clarified this aspect.
“A genuine human problem has been made into a bureaucratic nightmare. It is totally inexplicable.. How long do we wait (for clarification)? Four to five opportunities have been given to address the issue since filing of the petition,” the bench said.
It further said that the concerned officials appeared to be “confused” and were “unable to understand that pregnant women do not go to a hospital 48 hours before the delivery”.
“When a pregnant woman goes for delivery or surgery, they cannot wait for 48 hours for a result. Sometimes they go at the last moment. Your (Delhi government) secretaries should understand that pregnant women do not go 48 hours before a delivery.”
“As per your status report, they will be kept in isolation till declaration of results without a family member close by. What kind of society are we living in,” the court said.
The court’s observations came after perusing the Delhi government’s July 5 order to hospitals for testing of high risk patients and its status report filed in the instant matter.
The court said that as per the July 5 order, the government has said that all “at-high risk persons”, like aged people and those suffering from serious ailments like cancer, when approaching a hospital for treatment of non-COVID ailments need to undertake the Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT) before being admitted.
However, while the order does not include the category of pregnant women, the Delhi government’s status report said they were also included, the bench noted and observed that there was a contradiction on this aspect.
“Your July 5 order and status report are entirely contradictory,” it said.
Another contradiction pointed out by the court was with regard to whether asymptomatic pregnant women need to undergo RADT.
The bench noted that while the earlier Delhi government advisories said that all pregnant women have to undergo testing before being admitted, in court it has taken the stand that asymptomatic pregnant women do not have to undergo testing as a pre-condition for being admitted.
The court directed the Delhi government to correct the contradictions and clarify whether asymptomatic pregnant women have to undergo COVID-19 testing before being admitted.
If yes, then the Delhi government should ensure that time taken for sample collection and declaration of results should be minimum.
The bench said that as per Delhi government status report, RT/PCR results are available in 4-5 hours and therefore, why should pregnant women wait for 24-48 hours for it.
According to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advisory, anyone who tests negative under RADT has to undergo RT/PCR for confirming the result.
RT/PCR, short for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction, is a laboratory technique widely used in the diagnosis of genetic diseases and to measure gene expression in research.
With these observations and directions, the court listed the matter for hearing on July 15.
The bench had on Wednesday, July 8, said that pregnant women’s requests for the COVID-19 test should be met immediately and its results be declared quickly.
The court had said that when pregnant women go for deliveries they cannot wait five to six days for carrying out the tests and declaration of the results.
Delhi government had earlier filed an affidavit stating that prior COVID-19 test was not mandatory for admitting pregnant women in hospitals for in-patient interventions, including surgery and deliveries, and in emergent situations, treatment would not be denied for want of test results.
The test can be conducted simultaneously with the treatment and if the result comes out to be positive, the pregnant woman would ideally be transferred to a dedicated COVID-19 hospital for further management, the Delhi government had told the high court.
It had also said that it has “expanded” the use of Rapid Antigen Testing at hospitals to ensure availability of test results in quick time and this will further take care of difficulties being faced by people/patients, including pregnant women.