State if enough ICU beds for non-Covid patients: Delhi HC to govt
The Delhi High Court on Monday wanted to know from the Delhi government if there are sufficient Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for non-Covid patients and if hospitals are being compensated for keeping these beds vacant for coronavirus patients.
The court also sought the response of the Association of Healthcare Providers on a Delhi government plea, challenging a single-judge bench’s September 22 ruling that stayed an order reserving 80% of ICU beds in city hospitals for Covid-19 patients.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said the only question now is whether the government is blinding to the needs of other patients.
“You are a government and the executive has the liberty of experimenting. But the only thing is whether we are blinding ourselves to the other patients,” Justice Jalan said during the hearing.
The Delhi government did not comment on the matter.
The bench did not grant interim relief to the government even as its additional standing counsel, Sanjoy Ghose, said Covid-19 cases were increasing exponentially, warranting the reservation.
On September 22, the court had stayed the government’s September 12 order reserving 80% of all ICU beds in private hospitals and nursing homes for Covid-19 patients, saying it appeared to be “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and in “violation of the fundamental rights of an individual”.
It said the state cannot discriminate between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.
In the order, the Delhi government directed nursing homes and private hospitals to reserve the beds with immediate effect.
On Monday, additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, who appeared for the Delhi government, told the court that Covid-19 cases were again rising in the city. He said Covid-19 patients require care related to lungs, kidney, etc, as the virus attacks these organs.
The court said the government has to first satisfy the court that there are sufficient numbers of ICU beds available for non-Covid patients. “Also show us how you are compensating private hospitals for keeping their ICU beds vacant for Covid patients,” the bench said.
Advocate Ghose told the court that there are 3,222 ICU beds and only 1,186 of them are being reserved for Covid-19 patients.
Jain said several patients were coming to Delhi from other parts of the country for treatment as well. ASG Jain told the court it had not given any money to hospitals because none of them have sought compensation.
Following some arguments, the court posted the matter for further hearing on October 9.
The government, in its plea, said the stay order did not take into account the submissions regarding the surge in the number of Covid-19 patients and its efforts to tackle the changing situation. It said states such as Maharashtra have issued similar orders and notifications to tackle the issue of rising cases.
“Even in the approach adopted by such other States, health care providers have been directed to make all attempts to increase their bed capacity to accommodate maximum number of patients. 80% of total operational bed capacity (excluding beds of PICU, NICU, day care, maintenance haemodialysis) will be regulated by rates prescribed,” the government said in its plea.
The association moved the court against the September 12 order, saying it puts non-Covid-19 patients at risk of contracting the virus. It alleged that the order was issued without prior discussion with private hospitals and understanding the current demand-supply gap in critical care beds.