Delhi government order reserving 80% ICU beds stayed by HC
Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government's order directing 33 private hospitals to reserve 80% of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients. The court noted that the government cannot discriminate between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. The AAP government had passed the order on September 12 amid an increase in the number of patients needing intensive care.
Plea filed by Association of Healthcare Providers
The court was hearing a plea filed by the Association of Healthcare Providers which sought the quashing of the Delhi government's order. The plea claimed the reservation would effectively expose non-COVID-19 patients to the risk of COVID-19. It said the order was passed without any prior discussion with private hospitals and without taking into account the current demand-supply situation of critical care beds.
Petitioner's counsel described order as discriminatory
The petitioner's counsel, Maninder Singh, told the court that the order is discriminatory. Singh said hospitals cannot keep their ICU beds empty while denying them to non-COVID-19 patients. He said none of the factors was taken into account before passing the order.
'Order issued amid surge in COVID-19 patients needing critical care'
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court the order was issued in light of the sudden surge in the number of COVID-19 patients needing critical care. He said the plea should be dismissed since the 33 concerned hospitals have not challenged the order. The petitioner contended that the 33 hospitals were members of the Association of Healthcare Providers.
Court seeks Delhi government's response
Justice Navin Chawla of the Delhi HC has sought the AAP government's response over the plea. The court noted that the order was in violation of the fundamental rights, also terming it "arbitrary" and "unreasonable."
'During emergency, patient cannot be told to run between hospitals'
In an oral order, the court said, "At the time of the emergency, a patient cannot be told to run around from one hospital to another. The disease itself cannot be the ground for discrimination." Justice Chawla said, "I will not let even one patient die due to this. Has the government considered that we are talking about ICU beds?"
'Question is about patient being turned away because of reservation'
The judge further added, "The question is about the reservation and a patient being turned away because you are keeping this bed for COVID-19. Place the deliberation as to how and what factors were taken into account before passing the order."
HC stayed government's order until October 13
The court observed that it is not clear what decision-making process and data were considered by the Delhi government before passing such an order. The court has asked the government to disclose all factors involved in arriving at its decision to reserve ICU beds for COVID-19. The court has stayed the government's order until October 13.
Will challenge this order tomorrow, says Delhi government
Reacting to the order, the Delhi government said in a statement, "It is extremely important to reserve ICU beds in private hospitals to deal with increasing coronavirus cases. We will challenge this order tomorrow."