A day after the Delhi government announced that beds in state-run hospitals would be reserved for residents of the city, city Health Minister Satyendra Jain defended the decision, saying the capital had seen more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases daily in the past few days and would need up to 17,000 beds in the next 15 days amid a spike in infections.
"So the people of Delhi need space for treatment. Besides, neighbouring states say they do not even have coronavirus cases," said the Delhi minister.
"If they are not even saying they have virus cases then what is the issue?"
Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday that 10,000 beds under the Delhi government would be reserved for residents and beds under the Central government can be used by all. Also, private hospitals covering special treatment will be open to all.
Mr Jain was asked whether the decision to block beds for virus patients from Delhi was justified, given that thousands come from outside to hospitals in the capital and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also gone to other states for treatment.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had yesterday criticised the decision, saying: "How can Delhi's beds be reserved for people of Delhi? How can Mumbai's beds be only for Mumbaikars? How can Kolkata's beds be only for people of Kolkata? People from all across the country come to the national capital for treatment. There shouldn't be any politics in this."
Mr Jain said given Delhi's current doubling rate at 15 days, the capital will see around 56,000 cases in two weeks.
"We now have up to 9,000 beds but our goal is to have 15,000 to 17,000 beds in the next 15 days," said the minister.
Mr Jain said private hospitals had been asked to list charges for COVID-19 treatment as it was important for patients and their families to know exactly what they would need to pay before admission in a hospital.
Asked whether Delhi would also follow Mumbai's policy of fixing rates of treatment for hospitals, the minister replied: "We have asked for details of charges. After studying that we will see."
On the decision to appoint a nursing officer at private hospitals, Mr Jain said this would ensure that patients were not denied admission or beds.
Amid complaints of non-availability of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, a number of prominent hospitals in the city told NDTV they do not have any beds available, though a smartphone app developed by the Delhi government listed dozens of vacancies. Delhi government said some hospitals are not updating the data on time or misrepresenting actual information on availability of beds when patients call.
Arvind Kejriwal has ordered private hospitals to ensure that no virus patients are turned away.