With <span class=”covid-popup”>Covid-19</span><span class=”covid-popup”> </span>surging in the national capital, the Delhi High Court Thursday permitted the Delhi government to enforce its order asking 33 major private hospitals to reserve 80% ICU beds for coronavirus patients. It vacated a stay order on the matter passed by a single bench last month, on a petition filed by a group of healthcare providers, noting that the ground reality had “radically changed” since then.
Calling the situation dynamic, the division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad pulled up the state government, saying it should remain “much more alive” to the situation, and “the whole city can see for itself” what is happening.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the government against the stay given by a single bench on its September 12 order, which asked the 33 hospitals to reserve 80% of their ICU capacity for Covid-19 patients. The Association of Healthcare Providers (India) (AHPI) had gone to court against the government order.
The state government told the High Court that the Covid-19 situation in Delhi had become “critical” in recent days and it was essential that its order for reserving ICU beds be enforced. It said the 33 hospitals had on their own reserved 1,238 ICU beds, which would go up to 1,742 if this was done. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain said it wanted the measure to be in place for at least 15 days, after which it could be reviewed.
As per the data presented before the court, 89% of 1,238 Covid ICU beds in the 33 hospitals remained occupied as on Wednesday morning. In the 115 total private hospitals in Delhi, 86.96% of the 1,831 <span class=”covid-popup”>Covid</span> ICU beds were filled, while the figure stood at 78.6% of 1,145 beds for government hospitals and 72.2% of 342 beds for central government hospitals.
The state government also argued that nodal officers have been deputed in the 33 hospitals, and the data revealed reported that even if only 20% ICU beds were kept aside for non-Covid cases, the demand was much lower.
The court noted that the nodal officers ought to be empowered to relax the norm of 80% blocking of ICU beds in the case of each hospital so as to deal with any emergent situation in relation to a non-Covid patient needing an ICU bed. “… at the end of the day, no person suffering from a health emergency should be made to run from pillar to post,” the court said.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, who represented the AHPI, submitted that the hospitals had already set aside 67-70% of ICU beds for Covid cases, even without the government order, and that at any time, more than 50-55% of the beds were required for non-Covid emergency patients. Singh said the hospitals did not want to be in a position where they had to deny admission to an emergency non-Covid patient even if a coronavirus-reserved bed was vacant.
The AHPI also contradicted the data submitted by the government, saying the order seeking 80% reservation in the 33 private hospitals was only optics.
AHPI Director General Dr Girdhar Gyani told The Indian Express that the list of 33 included some super-speciality hospitals handling liver, kidney transplants, bypass surgery and neurosurgery, and said these should be kept out. Gyani also said the Delhi government should have spoken to the hospitals instead of getting the court involved.
While adjourning the case before the single bench to November 26, the High Court said, “The Delhi government must keep a finger on the pulse of the city to be able to cope… given that there has been a sea change in the ground reality (from) when the impugned order was passed.”x
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