HC allows Delhi govt to reserve 80 pc ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in 33 pvt hospitals

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New Delhi, Nov 12 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Thursday allowed the AAP government to reserve 80 per cent of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in 33 private hospitals, saying the situation in the national capital is fairly dynamic and the state has to be 'much more alive' to the circumstances.

Expressing concern over spiralling cases of COVID-19 in Delhi, the High court questioned the AAP government over “doing everything under the Sun to ‘unlock’ things”.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad allowed Delhi government's appeal challenging a single judge’s September 22 interim order staying its decision to reserve 80 per cent of the ICU beds in private hospitals.

The high court vacated the stay order and listed the matter for further hearing on November 26 before the single bench and till then the reservation of 80 per cent of ICU beds will continue.

The high court was hearing a plea by the Delhi government urging it to empower it to enforce the reservation of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in 33 private hospitals at least for 15 days in view of the rise in the number of cases.

Delhi recorded its biggest single-day jump of 8,593 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday that took its infection tally to over 4.59 lakh people, while 85 new fatalities pushed the national capital's death toll to 7,228.

During the hearing, the high court said the state is responsible for the health of citizens for which others also have to chip in, including private hospitals.

It said the situation in Delhi is fairly dynamic and so far as the spread of COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation of patients is concerned, the Delhi government must keep hand on the pulse of the city to be able to cope with the situation.

'There has been sea change in the ground reality when the impugned order of September 22 was passed when the figure of COVID-19 infection in Delhi was hovering around in the range of 3-4,000 patients vis-a-vis today when the said figure is more than double,” the bench said.

The high court said it was expected of the Delhi government to keep abreast of the situation and monitor it closely.

It asked the Delhi government to file an additional counter affidavit on material information by November 18 before the single judge who is seized of a plea by 'Association of Healthcare Providers' to quash the government’s order to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the association of which the 33 hospitals are members, opposed the government’s appeal saying if there is a compulsion of reserving 80 per cent ICU beds, the hospitals will have to keep the ICU bed vacant if there is no COVID-19 patient there and let other non-COVID-19 patients die by denying them the facility in emergency.

During the hearing, the bench observed, “Your (Delhi) government has to be much more alive to the situation than it is today. Please pass on our observation. It is not that alive to the current situation which the whole city can see for itself. The Delhi government is doing everything under the Sun to unlock things. It is vocalised on behalf of every citizen of Delhi.” To this, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain and additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose, representing the Delhi government, said the ‘unlock’ is being done by National Disaster Management authority and the state also receives instructions from the Centre.

While several restrictions were eased in different 'unlock' phases, educational institutions continued to remain closed.

The court said no person in a health emergency should be made to run from pillar to post to get treatment even when there is a bed available in a hospital.

The court asked Delhi government counsel if nodal officers are deputed in each district where these 33 private hospitals are situated for being in constant touch with the hospital authorities to assist the availability of the ICU beds for admission of COVID-19 patients as against the beds required for non-COVID-19 patients who are required to be admitted in ICU in emergency and for other unforeseen situation.

The bench said a blanket order passed three months ago by the government direction reservation of 80 per cent ICU beds for COVID-19 patients may not be in the best interest of the non-COVID-19 patients who are looking for critical care and support.

ASG Jain told the bench that 33 nodal officers have been deputed to coordinate with the 33 private hospitals and one nodal officer is there in each district.

To this, the bench said if such a network is available, these nodal officers are in a position to relax the norm of 80 per cent for these hospitals without strictly adhering to the Delhi government’s decision.

The court also questioned the Delhi government for choosing the 33 private hospitals and did not pick the remaining 82 for reserving 80 per cent ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

It said the situation in Delhi is dynamic and the government cannot be allowed to play with the lives of citizens on the basis of hindsight.

When the ASG said “we can always be wise in hindsight,” the bench shot back it cannot be accepted as an argument and be cognisant of the situation on a minute minute basis and take decision.

The ASG contended that the situation of COVID-19 infection in Delhi has become critical recently and the COVID-19 cases are spiralling and have touched over 8,500 and it is critical that 80 per cent of ICU/ HDU beds be reserved for COVID-19 patients in the 33 private hospitals. PTI SKV SA