The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the Centre to ensure that oxygen supplies and its transportation remained undisrupted and asked the government to provide adequate security to the transporting vehicles and create special corridors, reported Bar and Bench.
“We make it clear that non-compliance of orders would be viewed seriously as it would result in grave loss of life,” the court said. “Non-compliance would also invite criminal action.”
The court was hearing a plea from Saroj Super Specialty Hospital in Delhi’s Rohini area. The hospital moved the High Court seeking urgent supply of oxygen to critical coronavirus patients. After the Max Hospitals, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital is the second facility to move the High Court for assistance.
During the hearing, Delhi government advocate Rahul Mehra told a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli about alleged attempts made by the Haryana government to stop the supply of oxygen to the Capital. “Delhi right now is starved of oxygen,” Mehra told the judges. “Shanti Mukund and Saroj Hospital have no oxygen left. They are using oxygen cylinder. We are unable to contact [oxygen firm] Inox.”
The hospital, in its plea, said that it only had 60 minutes of oxygen left at 10 am on Thursday. It had managed to get some supplies that may last for another few hours since the morning but raised concerns that the oxygen may run out by Thursday afternoon.
Hours after the High Court heard the plea, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital informed that it had received an oxygen tanker for treating seriously ill patients, reported PTI.
Meanwhile, the Centre accused the Delhi government of sensationalising the shortage of oxygen in the city’s hospitals. “This is not an occasion to sensationalise,” the Centre’s counsel said, according to NDTV. “The Delhi government could have given us this list of hospitals which have sent SOS for oxygen.”
However, the High Court, during Thursday’s proceedings, rapped the central government and said that it may have allocated the oxygen to the Capital but the local administration has been “obstructing the movement of the oxygen”. “What is the purpose of allocation if the transportation is not allowed,” the court asked.
Availability of beds
During the hearing, the High Court also expressed concern about the acute shortage of beds for coronavirus patients in the Capital, Live Law reported.
“Forget common man on the street, even if I were to ask for a bed, it would not be available right now,” Justice Sanghi said, while speaking about the situation in Delhi. Justice Palli said the court hoped the Centre will look into the requirements of Covid beds.
The Delhi government counsel, meanwhile, blamed the Centre for the shortages. He alleged that even though the Centre claimed to have increased the number of beds at the central government hospitals, they have not been handed over to the Delhi government yet. “The problem is, no matter who you are, you are not getting a bed,” he said.
Besides, the increased number of beds available does not reflect on the [DeApp, Mehra added. “So how will people know, which beds are available and where?” he said. “ICU beds, normal beds, no information there.”
During the hearing, the High Court bench reiterated its observations against wastage of vaccines in India. The court suggested that beneficiaries should be provided information regarding the availability of vaccines near them, to both make the process more convenient and ensure that the resources do not go to waste
“When you’re registered on the app, you get updates in a geo-sensitive manner about which centre you have to go to as well,” the court said. “There are hospitals and centres where you can just walk in.”
On the contempt notice to oxygen firm Inox, the High Court said that the company should not worry about it as it only sought the firm’s cooperation and did not want the authorities to go to prison.
On benefits to labourers, the High Court said that if any construction worker tests positive for Covid-19 then they should be provided medical assistance. “We direct Board fee to implement this direction forthwith,” the court said, according to Bar and Bench. “We hope and expect that Board will not involve any complicated mechanism.”
Oxygen crisis in India
Several states have flagged a shortage of oxygen supplies amid a sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. The Centre on Thursday ordered that no restrictions should be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states as hospitals across the country are scrambling to shore up supplies during the second wave of the pandemic.
The home ministry’s order was issued under the Disaster Management Act, which states that no restrictions can be imposed on the inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods.
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said it was “shocked and dismayed” to see that the Centre does not seem to be mindful of the “extremely urgent” need of medical oxygen in the country to treat Covid-19 patients as a second wave of the pandemic overstretched India’s healthcare system. “Human lives are not that important for the State [Union government] it means,” the court said.
The Delhi High Court had said that it was the Centre’s responsibility to protect the right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require oxygen and to supply the same “by whatever means it is required”.
India’s healthcare infrastructure is reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of new coronavirus cases emerge every day. This has led to a chronic shortage of oxygen supplies, beds and timely medical care.
On Thursday morning, the country reported a record-breaking 3,14,835 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 1,59,30,965 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is also the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far. With 2,104 deaths, the toll rose to 1,84,657.