COVID-19: HC asks hospitals, nursing homes to first approach nodal officer for oxygen requirement

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New Delhi, Apr 23 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Friday asked hospitals and nursing homes to first approach the nodal officer of AAP government to meet the requirement of medical oxygen to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing two separate pleas by two private hospitals, which were running out of medical oxygen, seeking immediate supply of oxygen to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

“We would expect all hospitals in the NCT of Delhi to approach the nodal officer Mr. Udit Prakash and such other officers... in the first instance for the purpose of meeting their requirement of oxygen,” the court said.

The bench said if the requirements are not met even after contacting the nodal officer, the hospitals shall contact senior advocate Rahul Mehra and lawyer Satyakam, before approaching the court.

During the hearing, the bench noted that an assurance was given to it by the Centre that 480 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen would be supplied to Delhi daily, but the same has 'not fructified' mainly for the reason that some of the suppliers are located in West Bengal and Odisha.

'Whatever was allocated should be there,' the court observed.

The observation came after Mehra said Delhi has received only 380 MT of oxygen on Thursday and before that it was even less and if it gets its entire allocation, the problems faced by the hospitals can be resolved to some extent.

The two hospitals, M/s Bram Health Care Ltd and Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, sought immediate relief of oxygen supply to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients admitted at their respective hospitals.

The court also asked the nodal officer to look into the grievances of the two hospitals relating to supply of oxygen.

During the hearing, the court was informed that Batra Hospital has now received 2.5 metric tonnes of oxygen but it will last only till 9 PM today and the counsel raised the concern that if further supply is not made, critical patients will suffer.

Taking note of the submission, the bench directed the Delhi government to keep these aspects in mind and take necessary steps in relation to all the hospitals treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients here.

The bench also enquired whether CNG cylinders could be used for storage of oxygen and transportation to hospitals within the city on an emergent basis.

Advocate Satyakam and central government standing counsel Monika Arora said they would take instructions on this aspect and inform the court on April 26.

Mehra also informed the court that the Delhi government has circulated a list of centres for refilling oxygen gas along with contact details of nodal officers and such agencies.

He said the nursing homes and hospitals can contact them for refilling oxygen cylinders.

The court also suggested to the Delhi government to include more officers with nodal officer Udit Prakash so that the issue of shortage of oxygen could be handled more efficiently.

The bench was informed by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta that a virtual control room which was set up in 2020 to communicate with the nodal officers of the states and monitor the situation has been strengthened by adding more senior officers of various departments.

The SG said the control room is now better equipped to monitor and facilitate the supply of oxygen to places where it is needed.

Regarding supply of oxygen to Delhi from plants which are located in West Bengal and Odisha at a distance of 1200-1500 km, Mehra suggested to look for the possibility of remapping of allocation so that the national capital could get oxygen from places which are closer which will take lesser time in transportation.

The bench said mapping is undertaken by the Centre and it must have been done by taking into account all the requirements and asked the Solicitor General whether the Empowered Group, which has looked into the issue of mapping and needs of the states, could look into the possibility of re-mapping so that the distance between the place of production of oxygen to the place of supply could be reduced.

Mehta submitted that he was not in a position to make a statement in this regard, however, a suggestion in this regard would certainly be examined.

“Every decision is dynamic in nature, nothing is cast in stone,” he said.

The bench said, “Let the Chief Secretary of Delhi government examine the entire allocation plan and make a suggestion and place it before the Centre and the committee without any delay. As and when it is made, the same be examined by the Empowered Group without any delay.” The bench further said if the Empowered Group feels that the allocation plan needs no change, as an interim arrangement it can consider allocating oxygen for Delhi from nearby places till such time the Railways transport oxygen from the plants in West Bengal and Odisha.

The Delhi High Court has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation, especially the acute crisis of medical oxygen supply, and passing urgent orders to be implemented by the Centre and the state government.

The other issues being considered include RT-PCR testing, hospital beds of COVID-19 patients, food and medical assistance to migrant workers and vaccines.

Besides, Bram Health Care and Batra Hospitals, several others including Max Hospitals, Saroj Hospital and Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute had also approached the high court on running out of medical oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients. PTI SKV HMP SKV RKS RKS