Lakshadweep panel asked to formulate guidelines on medical evacuation

High Court directs Health Services Director to submit the guidelines on the method and manner of functioning within 10 days

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the committee constituted by the Health Services Director, Lakshadweep, for recommending medical evacuation of patients from various islands, to formulate guidelines on the method and manner of its functioning.

The Bench comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath also ordered that the guidelines be placed before the court within 10 days.

The court passed the directives on a writ petition filed by P.M. Mohammed Saliah from Amini in Lakshadweep, challenging the order of the Director of Health Services constituting a four-member committee for recommending special evacuation of patients to Kochi or Agati or Kavaratti from other islands.

The order of the Health Services Director made it clear that the committee would make a recommendation on a case-to-case basis after evaluation of all relevant documents uploaded online by the medical officer in charge of the respective islands along with a specialist at the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kavaratti.

The order had put the petitioner and other inhabitants in great hardship since it would delay the processing of the evacuation request, endangering the lives of patients. Earlier, patients in critical condition used to be airlifted as soon as the medical officer of the respective islands made a request to the Health Services Director functioning in Kavaratti.

When the petition came up for hearing, S. Manu, counsel for the Lakshadweep Administration, submitted that the committee did not cause any delay in taking a decision on the request of the medical officer for medical evaluation. The committee members would talk to each other over phone and take a decision in five minutes once a request was made by the medical officer of the island concerned. The service of 94 doctors of modern medicine including specialists had been made available in the islands. It was above the national average in terms of the doctor-patient ratio. He also submitted that since the order had come into force, as many as 13 patients had been evacuated from various islands.

The court observed that the petitioner feared that a delay on the part of the committee in taking a decision on evacuation requests would endanger the lives of patients. If the committee could formulate guidelines on the manner in which it was taking a call on medical evacuation requests, the apprehension of the petitioner could be allayed.

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