The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the Aam Aadmi Party government’s order to reserve 80% of beds in intensive care units of 33 private hospitals for coronavirus patients, the Hindustan Times reported. The court said the order appeared to be “arbitrary”, “unreasonable”, and a violation of fundamental rights of the individual.
“At the time of the emergency, a patient cannot be told to run around from one hospital to another,” Justice Navin Chawla said in his order. “The disease itself cannot be the ground for discrimination [between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients].”
The court also said that it will not let a single person die due to the Delhi government’s order. “You are missing what is for the good,” Chawla told the counsel for the Delhi government. “I will not let even one patient die due to this. The question is about reservation and a patient being turned away because you are keeping this bed for Covid-19. Place the deliberation as to how and what factors were taken into account before passing the order.”
The Association of Healthcare Providers had filed a plea in the Delhi High Court saying that the reservation of beds for coronavirus patients is putting non-infected patients too at risk of developing the disease. The association also alleged that the order has been issued without any prior discussion with private hospitals, and without understanding the current demand-supply situation of ICU beds. The petitioners sought quashing of the order.
Appearing for the Delhi government, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain said that the order was issued because of a sudden surge in Covid-19 patients requiring emergency care. Jain argued that since none of the 33 hospitals named in the order have challenged it, the plea should be dismissed. In response, the petitioner said all the 33 hospitals were members of the Association of Healthcare Providers.
The court observed that the government’s order would “prima facie” lead to a situation where a patient who is suffering from a disease other than Covid-19 is denied admission to ICU. Justice Chawla said it was not clear what data was used while making such a decision.
Chawla asked the Delhi government to disclose the factors on which the decision to reserve ICU beds was taken, and stayed the order till October 13.
The Delhi government issued a statement opposing the court’s directive. “It is extremely important to reserve ICU beds in private hospitals to deal with increasing corona cases,” the statement said. “We will challenge this order tomorrow.”
Delhi has the highest number of coronavirus cases for any city in India. As of Tuesday, it had recorded 2,49,259 cases, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. As many as 2,13,304 patients have recovered, while 5,014 have died.