The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the AAP government whether sufficient number of ICU beds are vacant for non-COVID patients and how it will compensate private hospitals which have been asked to make such beds available for COVID patients.
The queries were posed by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan while issuing notice to the Centre and the Association of Healthcare Providers seeking their stand on Delhi government's plea challenging its single judge order staying the reservation of 80 per cent ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
The single judge's September 22 order had come on the plea moved by the association.
The court, during the hearing, asked the Delhi government to give details of the ICU beds earmarked for COVID and non-COVID patients and how many in each of the two categories are lying vacant.
"First satisfy us that sufficient numbers of ICU beds are available for non-COVID patients. Also show us how you are compensating the private hospitals for keeping their ICU beds vacant for COVID patients," the bench sought to know from the Delhi government.
During the hearing, the Delhi government, represented by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, told the bench that there are 1,170 private hospitals and 3,222 ICU beds in the national capital.
Of the 1,170 only 33 private hospitals were asked on September 12 to reserve 80 per cent of their ICU beds for COVID patients, the Delhi government said.
It said the idea was to increase ICU beds for COVID patients to 1,521 from the present 881.
The bench, however, did not accept the contention, saying that on a
bare reading of the September 12 notification, it "does not contemplate adding of 700 extra beds" to the existing 881 for COVID patients.
"Your officers don't appear to have understood the notification," the court remarked.
It asked the Delhi government to come with clear figures/data on the next date of hearing, ASG Jain urged the court to clarify in its order that the September 22 order of the single judge would not come in the way of any hospital which wants to comply with the September 12 notification.
The bench declined to make any such clarification and said if any private hospital wants to "voluntarily" comply with the September 12 notification it can do so by reserving even 100 per cent of its ICU beds for COVID patients.
The single judge on September 22 had stayed the Delhi government's September 12 direction to 33 private hospitals to reserve 80 per cent of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients and asked whether other patients had a right to life.
The Delhi government in its appeal has contended that the single judge did not appreciate its submissions regarding the surge in the number of COVID-19 patients and dynamic efforts being undertaken by it to tackle the ever-changing nature of the situation in the national capital due to the pandemic.
Seeking setting aside of the single judge order, the Delhi government has alleged that the association's petition was "masked" as a plea to secure interests of non-COVID patients, "whereas in reality, the same has been preferred on behalf of private nursing homes and hospitals solely to look out for and secure their own financial interests".
The Delhi government has further stated that its September 12 decision does not in any manner take away any person's right to be treated for any disease or ailment other than COVID-19 and that the direction was issued in public interest.
The single judge, while staying the direction, had said that the Delhi government's decision "appears to be arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of fundamental rights of citizens" guaranteed under the Constitution.
"Do other patients have a right to life or not or is it now that the state says only COVID-19 patients have a right to life. This is making my blood boil. The patient is not going there for a holiday, he is going there in an emergency.
"Why do you (Delhi government) discriminate between the two (COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients)? Why do you have to keep an ICU bed vacant for COVID-19 patient and the other one in need can die? A person has got a heart attack and you are saying he should die on the road," the judge had said.
The Delhi government, in its appeal, has said that several of the 33 hospitals were operating as fully COVID-19 hospitals.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)