The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Centre should consider revisiting its formula to calculate the requirement of liquid medical oxygen for states on the basis of the number of hospital beds, reported Live Law.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah recorded the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the government has formed an expert group calculating oxygen requirement on a pan India basis. The expert group has devised the formula on the premise that 50% of non-ICU beds need 10 litres of oxygen per minute and 100% of the ICU beds require 24 litres per minute.
The group comprises NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria, Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Balram Bhargava and Director General of Health Services Sunil Kumar.
The Supreme Court made the observation on the petition filed by the Centre against a Delhi High Court contempt notice to the government for its failure to immediately supply full quota of oxygen to the Capital city during the coronavirus crisis. The Supreme Court had stayed the order on Wednesday but told the Centre to provide 700 metric tonnes of oxygen to Delhi.
On Thursday, the Centre told the court that it has complied with its order, reported PTI. It said that instead of 700 metric tonnes of oxygen, the government has ensured a supply of 730 metric tonnes to Delhi for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
The court told the Centre to ensure that it supplies Delhi 700 MT every day and not change it. “Mr Mehta you have to augment the supply,” the court said, according to Bar and Bench. “You have to keep holding operation. Saatso toh aapko dena hi padega [You have to give 700 tonnes].”
“If nothing is to be hidden, let it come before the nation how allocation and distribution is done transparently by the centre,” the Supreme Court added, according to NDTV. “The Centre continues to be in contempt for not supplying 700 tonnes of oxygen to Delhi.”
Mehta claimed that the problem in Delhi was not because of less supply but “serious systemic failure in distribution”. He added that the Delhi government was using the Supreme Court to speak against the Centre.
“There has to be an audit because there is systemic failure, but it is not against political leadership or officers,” Mehta told the court. “The Centre was given mandate twice by the people of this country, and we are very much concerned. We cannot be Delhi-centric.”
On the formula, the Supreme Court said that it was not trying to find fault with the expert group or the Union government but that it was necessary to determine if further consideration is required to meet specific requirements of the states.
The court pointed out that besides patients in hospitals, there are other individuals who also need oxygen. “It is not adequate to anticipate the need of oxygen based on the number of beds, using the formula thus far employed by the UOI [Union of India],” it said. “This is certainly a matter in which the government may engage fresh attention of the body of experts in view of the dynamically evolving situation.”
At this, Mehta said that the formula calculates the requirement for oxygen not only on the number of beds but also considers the number of active cases. The solicitor general said that the oxygen allocated on the basis of beds was dynamic.
“This is a rough and ready formula that we came up with as there is a limited quantity of oxygen,” he said. “But, for example, if we are dealing with the state of MP and the chief secretary says that 700 MT is needed, we may allocate some amount. Subsequently, we may decrease or increase this amount based on the requirement. This is done on a real-time basis.”
On Wednesday too, the court had pointed out that the formula was “based on assumptions”.
Prepare for third wave: Supreme Court
The court also said that a third wave of the coronavirus will hit the country that will also affect children, and emphasised the need to prepare for it, reported Bar and Bench.
“When a child goes to hospital, the mother and father will also have to go,” the court said. “That is why vaccination will have to be over for this group of people. We need to plan for this in a scientific way and thus make arrangements.”
The court also urged the government to examine if the services of doctors who have completed their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery course could be utilised.
“Today we have 1.5 lakh doctors who have finished medical course but waiting for NEET [National Eligibility cum Entrance Test] exam,” Justice Chandrachud said. “How do you tap them? 1.5 lakh doctors and 2.5 lakh nurses are sitting at home. They will be crucial for third wave.”
“The current crop of doctors are completely fatigued and [are] at the end of their tether,” the court added. “You can call them corona warriors etc but they are humans.”
On Thursday, India registered 4,12,262 new coronavirus cases, its highest single-day infection count. With this, the overall case count climbed to 2,10,77,410 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is the second time after May 1 when the one-day infection count increased by over 4 lakh. The toll climbed by 3,980 deaths to 23,01,68. This is also India’s highest-ever daily fatality count.
A devastating second wave of coronavirus in India has led to widespread shortages of medical oxygen and medicines in Delhi and several other states.
On Tuesday, 13 patients died at the Chengalpattu Government Hospital in Tamil Nadu following an alleged disruption in oxygen supply. However, there are conflicting versions on the number of patients who were suffering from coronavirus. Doctors at the hospital have claimed that those dead included coronavirus patients and those suspected to have contracted the infection.
On Sunday, a children’s hospital in Delhi was among at least three institutions that raised an alarm that it was running out of oxygen. On April 30, as many as 12 patients, including a senior doctor, had died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital due to oxygen shortage.
On April 24, at least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died after the hospital treating them ran out of oxygen.