The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Aam Aadmi Party-led government to provide data on intensive care unit beds for both Covid-19 and other patients, reported PTI. It also asked the Delhi government for details on compensation to private hospitals that were directed to reserve 80% beds for Covid-19 patients.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan asked the Delhi government if sufficient number of beds were available for non-coronavirus patients. To this Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain replied that there were 1,170 private hospitals and 3,222 ICU beds in the Capital.
The court also sought a response from the Association of Healthcare Providers and the Centre on a plea, challenging the court’s September 22 ruling that stayed the Delhi government’s order of reserving 80% beds in 33 private hospitals. The court had also ruled that the Delhi government’s order appeared to be “arbitrary”, “unreasonable”, and in violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.
During Monday’s hearing, the Delhi government said that out of the 1,170 private hospitals, only 33 were asked to reserve 80% of their ICU beds for coronavirus patients. Jain said the Delhi government wanted to increase the number of beds for coronavirus patients from 881 to 1,521.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led government told the High Court that there was an extraordinary increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the Capital. Delhi has so far reported 2,71,114 coronavirus cases, according to the Union health ministry’s data. Till Monday morning, the toll was 5,235, and the tally of active cases stood at 29,228. The Capital has registered more than 3,000 new cases every day for nine of the last 10 days. Further, there were more than 4,000 cases in two of these 10 days.
Jain, representing the Delhi government, told the court that the transition of infected patients from “moderately ill” to “severely ill” was seamless, requiring urgent medical attention, according to Bar and Bench. He compared Delhi’s coronavirus situation to strategising in chess, saying that “dynamic decisions” need to be taken in the game.
The bench, however, said it “does not contemplate adding of 700 extra beds” to the existing 881, after reading the government’s September 12 notification.
The division bench also refused to pass any interim order after Jain urged the court to clarify in its judgement that the High Court’s September 22 ruling would not create hurdles for hospitals that wanted to comply with the Delhi government’s notification for reservation of the beds. The High Court, however, said that if any private hospital wishes to voluntarily comply with the Delhi government’s notification, it can even reserve all of its ICU beds for coronavirus patients.
The matter has been posted for further hearing on October 9.
In its September 22 ruling, the High Court had said non-Covid-19 patients cannot be made to run from pillar to post in cases of emergency. “The disease itself cannot be the ground for discrimination [between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients],” a single-judge bench had said.
The Association of Healthcare Providers had filed a plea in the Delhi High Court, saying that the reservation of beds for coronavirus patients puts those non-infected at risk. The association also alleged that the order was issued without any prior discussion with private hospitals, and without understanding the current demand and supply situation of ICU beds.
The Delhi government had 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.