COVID-19 surge has exposed Delhi's struggling medical infrastructure, govt. cannot defend situation: High Court

Workers refilling oxygen cylinders at a plant in Mayapuri in Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The Delhi High Court on Thursday observed that the current surge in COVID-19 cases has “completely exposed” the existing medical infrastructure of the Capital and that the Delhi government’s counsel was “behaving like the ostrich with its head in the sand”.

The stern observation of a Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli came when senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, urged the court not to include certain remarks about the state of medical infrastructure in Thursday’s order.

“You [Mr. Mehra] are behaving like the ostrich with its head in the sand. When you defend this situation, you are not rising above politics. We always call a spade a spade,” the court said.

“The existing medical infrastructure in the State is completely exposed...when it was put to test, and this court cannot turn away people like the petitioner [a COVID patient] by merely telling him that the State does not have the infrastructure to deal with his situation...” the High Court said.

Mr. Mehra, who initially urged the court not to say that Delhi’s infrastructure is struggling or that it was in a shambles, later withdrew his statement. Mr. Mehra said that the government has taken several initiatives, but in the absence of oxygen, the hospitals were reducing beds.

The High Court was hearing a plea by a 53-year-old COVID patient seeking an ICU bed with a ventilator as his oxygen saturation levels had fallen to around 40.

Equal treatment

While ordering the government to provide sufficient infrastructure to undergo the treatment required to save his life, the court added that the 53-year-old not being able to approach the court cannot be a reason to pass an order in his favour so that he can “steal a march over others” who may not have had the same option.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that thousands of others are afflicted by the same disease in the city and whose condition may be as bad as that of the petitioner, if not worse,” the court said.

The Bench closed the petition with a direction to the Delhi government to ensure that medical treatment is provided to all who are suffering from COVID-19.

“In case they require hospitalisation, it shall be provided. If medicines, it shall be provided. If oxygen, it shall be provided. If ICU with or without a ventilator, the State would be obligated to provide that too,” the court said.

The Bench also took a grim view of reports of hoarding and black marketing of oxygen cylinders and medicines used for treating COVID-19. “We are still not understanding the gravity of the situation and that is why we are not coming together, which is why we are seeing instances of hoarding and black marketing. Our moral fabric has been dismembered to a great extent,” the High Court remarked.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 6:18:12 PM |

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