Health

Delhi Riots: Healthcare NGOs Urge Authorities to Ensure Access to Care

It is "deplorable", two groups have said, that the Delhi high court had to intervene in the middle of the night to ensure that victims could access medical care.

New Delhi: Two NGOs working in the healthcare field – Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Medico Friend Circle – have issued a statement expressing deep concern about reports coming out of Delhi. During the riots, several victims and doctors have said that emergency medical care was not allowed to reach the affected areas, and that the police was stopping ambulances.

“Delays in [providing access to medical care] are absolutely unacceptable, are a violation of the fundamental rights of all people and can have serious consequences,” the groups have said.

Several victims and their families have said that they had a tough time accessing medical care and had to wait inordinate lengths of time. The Wire reported, for instance, how a 14-year-old boy with a bullet injury in Kardam Puri had to wait more than six hours for an ambulance. Locals said the police had been turning away ambulances.

Also read: HC Judge Who Pulled Up Delhi Police Over Riots Shunted Out by Modi Govt

It is “deplorable”, the two groups have said, that the Delhi high court had to intervene in the middle of the night to ensure that victims could access medical care. “All state agencies must ensure that there are no barriers to access health facilities, for ambulances carrying patients, drugs and equipment and doctors, or for other medical and non-medical staff of health facilities in Delhi,” they continued.

Read the full text of the statement below.

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We, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) and Medico Friend Circle (MFC), health practitioners/health workers and other concerned citizens are deeply troubled by the violence that is being reported from parts of Delhi.  In such a situation, access to health care, including emergency medical treatment to treat injuries and to save human lives is critical. We demand that all State agencies, especially the police ensure that medical personnel are not prevented but protected in fulfilling their duties in providing health care and saving lives. The police must not be allowed to stop patients and ambulances carrying them, doctors and drugs and medical supplies to any health facility. Delays in this regard are absolutely unacceptable, are a violation of the fundamental rights of all people and can have serious consequences.

It is deplorable that the intervention by the Delhi High Court at midnight yesterday was necessary to address the situation at the Al Hind hospital at Mustafabad, which had been cordoned off by the police and ambulances, patients, medical supplies were not allowed to reach the hospital for several hours. The hospital was providing treatment to persons injured in the violence over the past two days and was being accessed by persons needing emergency medical treatment.

Also read: As Northeast Delhi Was Burning, What Were Local MLAs Doing?

All state agencies must ensure that there are no barriers to access health facilities, for ambulances carrying patients, drugs and equipment and doctors, or for other medical and non-medical staff of health facilities in Delhi.

The right to life is paramount and absolute, and all the State agencies, including medical professionals and the police have a constitutional obligation to ensure the preservation of the right to life.  The right to Health is a fundamental human right and State of Delhi must “refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to health”. (General Comment No. 14, Art 12, CESCR).

Health care, including emergency medical aid is critical for upholding the right to health and life and must not be denied nor compromised. The State must ensure all safeguards so that those who have been affected by the violence  and others under the threat of violence are guaranteed timely access to health care, and all those involved in the provision of health care including ambulance services are allowed free and safe movement.