NEW DELHI: Alarmed at the scale of Covid-19 spread and the damage it’s causing, Delhi High Court on Monday revived its monitoring of the issue and said “it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse”.
A concerned bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli also directed the Centre to look into the aspect of shortage of oxygen supply in certain Delhi hospitals, including Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) , on an urgent basis.
Meanwhile, after the AAP government flagged the issue, the bench directed a private oxygen supplier, Inox, to restore supply of 140 metric tonnes as per its contractual commitment to the city so that the government can then redistribute it to the needy hospitals.
Delhi government alleged that suddenly the company had cut short the supply and diverted it to another state from its quota.
Taking stock of the Covid-19 testing capacity and infrastructure, the court noted that the virus has raised its “ugly head” once again and the pandemic is raging with much greater intensity. It directed both the Centre and Delhi government to file affidavits by Tuesday disclosing hospital-wise availability of beds for Covid patients, including how many hospital beds are with or without ventilators and oxygen support.
During the hearing, the court also took exception to the threat by Delhi government of cancellation or suspension of licence of labs that delayed furnishing report in 24 hours. The bench said it cannot appreciate this stand of the government.
“We therefore direct that if such a direction is issued, it shall not be implemented,” it said, adding that “because of this direction, labs are not willing to collect samples if they are unable to deliver reports in 24 hours. If any such action is taken by the government, it will only be counter productive. We have to be clear that labs are also hard pressed because of the large numbers they are receiving. It will not serve the interest of any laboratory to negligently or deliberately delay the test result.”
It, however, asked the labs to work efficiently and diligently and generate reports as soon as possible. Petitioner advocate Rakesh Malhotra highlighted before the court that oxygen stock is precariously low at SGRH and sought Centre’s intervention.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing Delhi government, assured the court that in the current situation the government will like to carry all stakeholders together and it will not do anything which will create obstacles in the labs’ work.
The court also reminded both the Centre and AAP government of their obligation to the migrant workers, cautioning against any repeat of last year’s misery. It directed the state government to provide food to daily wagers at their work sites and to utilise the service of contractors who used to prepare midday meals in schools, while using money from the Rs 3000-crore Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund.
On AAP government’s submission, the court also asked the Centre to specify about the status and capacity of beds allocated to Delhi government and also consider the aspect of increasing beds in central government-run hospitals in the national capital.