Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, JJ., while addressing the concerns arising out the COVID-19 pandemic, expressed that:
The lives of the people take priority over everything else.
Rahul Mehra, Senior Counsel, Central Government in its affidavit stated that though all efforts were made to file the affidavit on behalf of GNCTD, the same could not be completed and filed.
Bench perused the affidavit filed on behalf of the Central Government by Mr Rajender Kumar, Under Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
What all the affidavit has dealt with?
- Availability of COVID Beds as made available by the Central Government in the NCT of Delhi.
- Discloses that 500 ICU Bedded DRDO COVID Care Hospital be established in Delhi Cantt.
- 250 ICU Beds have been operationalized by DRDO and another 250 beds shall be operationalized by 22-04-2021.
- To provide 25 medical officers and 75 paramedics to this COVID Care Centre from Central Armed Paramilitary Forces.
Further, Centre has also called upon the States and UTs to provide their requirements for ventilators in the States, so as to consider the supply of ventilators as per the availability at the earliest. Adding to this, it was stated that as per the demand of the GNCTD, 763 ventilators have been supplied by the Government of India. In addition to that, Safdarjung Hospital has been provided with 105 ventilators, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital with 5 ventilators, LHMC with 5 ventilators, Ayush Hospital with 2 ventilators, ESIC Hospital with 10 ventilators and the DRDO facility has been provided with 500 ventilators.
BEDS FOR COVID PATIENTS
In Central Government-run hospitals, the availability of beds for COVID Patients is up to 1432 beds. Other hospitals and facilities – other than those detailed in the affidavit, 2105 beds have been made available by the Central Government in the NCT of Delhi and with the addition of these beds, the current COVID beds allocated stand at about 4091 bed.
It has been stated that the complete breakup of the above-stated COVID beds should be indicated along with the details of ICU/ Non-ICU beds, and beds with/without oxygen, and with/without ventilator in the affidavit to be filed by the Centre on 22-04-2021.
Rahul Mehra, Senior Counsel, Central Government submitted that the number of COVID Positive Patients at present in comparison to last year are four times, therefore Central Government should allocate more beds in its hospitals and facilities for COVID patients.
Roli Khare, Director, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated that the Central Government has been endeavouring to make more beds available. Presently it has been stated that the Central Government hospitals are occupied by non-COVID patients in need of critical care.
Central Government should urgently look to allocate more beds among their hospitals for COVID patients.
Bench directed the Central Government to look into the aspect of bed allocation for COVID patients keeping in view the prevailing circumstances and report in this regard on 22-04-2021.
Availability of Medical Oxygen in the NCT of Delhi
Bench stated that the situation is alarming as the availability of Oxygen has dropped dramatically in the Hospitals.
Dr Nipun Vinayak, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare explained that the Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal (DPIIT) has been looking into the aspect of diversion of Oxygen from industrial use for medical use in view of the urgent need for oxygen.
He added that apart from industries, all others have been directed not to use the Oxygen so that the same could be made available for the medical use in the country.
Mr Mehra further submitted that there is grave dearth of medical oxygen in Delhi’s Hospitals and requirement according to him is 700 MT of medical oxygen per day. Adding to this, he stated that there is non-compliance of the order passed this Court whereby, M/s INOX was required to honor its contract with the GNCTD and Delhi Hospital to supply oxygen to Delhi.
Bench – Analysis & Decision
Bench called upon the Central Government to issue appropriate orders in respect of the Steel and Petro-Chemical industries, so that a balance can be maintained between the needs of the people at large – who are suffering from COVID and are serious, and the needs of the industries.
Looking at the number of COVID positive patients all over the country, and the pattern which is emerging with regard to the spread of the viral infection and the severity with which it is impacting people in different States and regions — Central Government is directed to review the allocation of oxygen on a dynamic basis.
Oxygen supply in some major hospitals has been informed to last only for 4-8 hours and since the need for oxygen is now, there should be no delay causing the loss of precious lives.
Central Government to make available oxygen to hospitals which are running out of their supplies, lest there is grave loss of life suffered by patients being treated thereat.
Notice of Contempt to be issued to M/s INOX for non-compliance of Court’s order and the Managing Director/Owner of M/s INOX to personally remain present.
Court is informed that the equipment for setting up RT-PCR test labs are imported, and medical equipment/ machines for which import orders have been placed, are being dealt with routinely at Customs Ports, hence it is essential that all such medical machines/ equipment’s, medicines, etc. which are imported should be handled and cleared at top priority by the Customs.
ICMR to give top priority for such clearances so that the RT – PCR Labs could be set up or expanded without any delay.
Central Government, and the ICMR, to review the form in which the information is required to be uploaded by the testing agencies, so as to reduce their burden and wastage of time, as this appears to be acting as a bottleneck in the matter of preparation of reports.
Adding more to the above directions, Bench directed the Central Government and its agencies to issue necessary directions to all the licensee and the Government should undertake to check on a regular basis to unearth all such cases of hoarding which is leading to scarcity of drugs in the market for the needy patients. Strict penal action should be taken against those indulging in such practices.
Review the distribution of Remedesivir — Essential to maximise the efficient use of the said Drug
Central Government should dynamically review the distribution of Remedesivir in the States and Union Territories on a daily basis, on the basis of the need, assessed on the basis of the serious active Covid patients, who need to be administered the said Drug.
Centre should immediately reach out to the manufacturers/patent holders/licensees so as to forthwith ramp up the production capacities of all the medications essential for COVID treatment.
Manufacturers should be encouraged to ramp up their production on a war footing. Voluntary licenses to other entities should also be granted.
As per reports, 44 lakhs vaccines have been wasted out of the 10 crores vaccines allocated to different States due to the restriction of age or category of people who are entitled to take the vaccine.
Wastage of even a single dose of vaccine, when the same is proving to be life–saving, would be a criminal waste.
Bench has been informed that each vial has 10 doses and once it is opened, it has to b either fully consumed or the remainder goes waste.
To the above, Court concluded this decision stating that:
It should be possible for the Government(s) to devise ways and means so as to register volunteers who may be below the age group of 45 years, and above the age of 18 years – who could be called upon to take the residual doses of vaccine, in case, there are doses left unutilised after, say, 05.00 P.M on each day. That would ensure that all the doses are fully utilised, and not wasted.
Matter to be listed on 22-04-2021. [Rakesh Malhotra v. GNCTD, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1811, decided on 20-04-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioner: In Person
For the Respondents: Mr Rahul Mehra, Sr. Advocate with Mr Satyakam, ASC, and Mr Chaitanya Gosain and, Advocate for GNCTD.
Mr Chetan Sharma, ASG with Ms Monika Arora, CGSC and Mr Shriram Tiwary, Advocate for R-3