Indian Express Stories of Strength

Facebook and The Indian Express bring you a series on those at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic. From healthcare workers to government officials to innovators — a look at their day at work, their struggles and challenges.

Delhi lawyer switches to fighting for Covid-19 cases denied beds in hospitals

With hospitals across the board denying admission to suspected patients citing lack of beds, a Delhi lawyer took it upon himself to offer some relief to such people, with some help from the courts.

July 3, 2020 4:19:49 pm

Written by Ayesha Khan

NEW DELHI: When his 34-year-old daughter, a suspected Covid-19 patient who already had a 85 per cent disability, was asked to leave a private hospital in New Delhi, Prem Singh felt all doors were shutting on him. That is when he decided to call Hemant Gulati, an advocate at the Delhi High Court. Gulati’s writ petition prompted the Delhi High Court to issue orders to move the patient to another private hospital in South Delhi. The court also asked the Delhi government to investigate the matter and take appropriate action against the hospital.

Gulati’s days and nights have been peppered with many such calls since the Covid-19 pandemic starting impacting people across the national capital. With hospitals across the board denying admission to suspected patients citing lack of beds, Gulati took it upon himself to offer some relief to such people, with some help from the courts. He also used the social media platforms to tell people that he was providing free legal aid to Covid-19 patients who have been denied beds.

“I started this initiative to ensure that a person’s fundamental right is not put at risk. By filing a writ petition before the honourable High Court, we can get the orders and directions against the Delhi government or the hospital or against any other authority if they fail to provide a facility the government is claiming,” he explained.

Despite being home to some of the best hospitals in the country, Delhi hospitals are turning away scores of Covid-19 patients daily.

“Within hours of deciding to do this, I received numerous calls. Now, I get around 70 to 80 calls a day and often they go on till late into the night,” added Gulati, narrating the story of a woman who called him around 4 am a few days back. “She was crying. Her father was with her in an ambulance outside Safdarjung hospital which denied him admission.”

Gulati called up the hospital and told them the Delhi ‘Corona App’ was showing beds available at the government facility. But the duty doctor reiterated there were no beds. “I immediately called up a doctor at AIIMS, Delhi where the app showed beds available and they agreed to admit the patient at 5 am.”

Gulati believes the ‘Corona App’ launched by the Delhi government on June 2 create more confusion when it shows beds available and the hospitals deny the same.

“Today morning (June 24), the application indicated that there are around 13,000 beds in Delhi out of which 7000 beds are vacant along with 250 of the 700 ventilators. But whenever a Covid-19 patient visits a hospital, the hospital says beds are not available. So, either the hospitals are not punching in correct data or the government has no control over the functioning of these hospitals,” the advocate said.

The lack of proper health infrastructure is what Gulati believes is keeping the patients from getting their basic right of availing treatment by medical professionals. “There is fear in the minds of people because even if the symptoms are mild, the patients deserve some kind of treatment and support, which is lacking,” he added.

Gulati’s efforts have helped many find solace during the ongoing crisis and he wants to continue doing so. “If a person calls me, it is my duty to help them to the best of my knowledge and by putting in my best efforts without seeing who they are or whether they’re rich or poor.”

Also in this series: Youth with risky Covid-19 job has bigger fears to tackle