In a tragic incident, an elderly woman who was admitted to a private hospital in Delhi last month, and tested positive for the COVID-19 virus shortly after, died 7.30 pm Sunday, after initially being denied a ventilator.
Her son, who had tried frantically to get his mother the medical equipment she needed, including approaching the Delhi government's coronavirus helpline, has now also tested positive for the virus and is in isolation.
The Delhi High Court, which last month took suo motu cognisance of alleged negligence and filed a PIL on the matter, is now set to hear the case on June 3. The court said the incident "raises serious issues of public concern".
The court pulled up both centre and state governments, pointing out helplines needed to provide "meaningful and effective help" in times of distress.
"If the experience of Dharmendra Bhardwaj is anything to go by, it appears, that this aspect has not been adequately addressed by the respondents (that is, the centre and Delhi governments)," the court said.
A two-judge bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar also said Delhi helpline numbers should provide guidance on availability of hospital beds in the city, "particularly in the proximity of the caller patient's location".
On Saturday Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said a mobile app would be launched - which is expected today - for that purpose.
On May 19, Dharmendra Bhardwaj admitted his mother to a private hospital in east Delhi after she complained of difficulty breathing. A COVID-19 test conducted two days later confirmed she was infected with the novel coronavirus and needed to be placed on a ventilator.
A ventilator takes over the body's breathing process when the lungs have failed, giving the patient time to fight off the infection and recover.
On the morning of May 22, the hospital allegedly told Mr Bhardwaj it could not put his mother on such a machine and that he would either have to arrange it on his own expense or take her elsewhere.
Shocked, Mr Bhardwaj posted a video appeal online at 2.15 pm that same day. In the video he said he had visited several hospitals and even called the Delhi government's coronavirus helpline, but to no avail.
The heart-breaking video went viral within 24 hours.
On May 23 the hospital told Mr Bhardwaj "not to worry... your mother will be treated here". She was subsequently attached to a ventilator.
Two days later Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a show cause notice, asking why the hospital's license should not be cancelled. He said the hospital's conduct was wrong and could not be tolerated.
Delhi is the third worst-affected state with nearly 20,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 473 deaths. The number of active cases has crossed 10,000. Mr Kejriwal last week said 2,900 additional beds would be made available, taking the total number of hospital beds in the city to 9,500.