Delhi high court vacates stay on reservation of 80% ICU beds for Covid-19 patients
The Delhi high court on Thursday vacated the stay imposed by a single judge on the reservation of 80% Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in 33 private hospitals in the national capital.
“In view of the present situation and the spiralling situation that has radically changed in the last three months, the order of September 22, passed by the single judge, is vacated,” the court said.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government issued an order on September 12 asking 33 private hospitals in the city to reserve 80% ICU beds for Covid-19 patients. This order was stayed by the HC on September 22 on a petition by the Association of Healthcare Providers. Later, on October 9, a division bench of the court took up an appeal by the Delhi government, refusing to vacate the stay while adjourning the matter to November 27. The AAP government approached the apex court against these two orders of September 22 and October 9. The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the HC order staying the AAP government’s instruction to private hospitals in the city to reserve beds.
The high court also asked the state government as to what exercise it has carried out in reserving 80% ICU beds in 33 private hospitals, while stating that a September 12 notification to that effect is “outdated” and that “the situation on the ground is much more critical”.
“What is the rationale behind selecting these 33 hospitals? What is the density exercise that you have conducted? Is it a random selection? What is the density exposure and how many of the hospitals have been reserved in the Central district of the city with the fourth sero survey report showing increase in the cases? How have the beds been divided?,” a bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad sought to know from additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain, who represented the Delhi government.
ASG Jain submitted that three factors had been taken into account while choosing the 33 hospitals. He said they had the largest chunk of ICU beds (a total of 2,217). He said that the remaining 82 private hospitals in the city had 1,051 ICU beds, and they had also been told to reserve about 20%-40% of their ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
Jain contended that the 33 hospitals were also chosen because they were popular among residents, and were better equipped to segregate Covid and non-Covid patients as well as increase the number of ICU beds if required.
He said that while there are 20 ambulances available to ferry patients to the Radha Soami Beas Satsang facility, 60 more ambulances are being offered by the Delhi government to transport patients from home to hospitals and from one hospital to another.
However, appearing for the Association of Healthcare Providers, senior advocate Maninder Singh and advocate Sanyam Khetarpal said that the 33 private hospitals had already reserved 67% of their ICU beds for Covid patients. Singh said 50-55% of the ICU beds were required for non-Covid patients, including new ones and those already under treatment at these private hospitals.
After hearing the submissions, the court said that no citizen with a health emergency should be made to run from pillar to post if there is a bed available in a hospital. It said that the Delhi government must feel the pulse of the city to cope with the situation, given that there has been a sea change in the ground reality since the September 12 order was passed.
On Wednesday, the government informed the high court that around one in four of the 15,000 people tested in the latest serological survey in the capital showed prevalence of antibodies against Sars-Cov-2, indicating that the proportion of people with antibodies has remained largely unchanged from the previous round of the exercise.
The court also asked the Delhi government as to whether there are nodal officers appointed to coordinate with the management of these private hospitals to check the availability of the beds.
ASG Jain submitted that there are 33 nodal officers assigned to each hospital and there is one nodal officer per district. All of them collectively report to the special secretary, health, Delhi government, to look into the availability of beds.
Following this, the court vacated the stay imposed by a single judge on the reservation of ICU beds on September 22 while stating that since the network of nodal officers is already in place, they can coordinate and change the order according to the situation.
The bench asked the Delhi government to file an additional affidavit before the single judge and changed the date of the next hearing to November 26 from November 18.