Industries Can Wait For Oxygen, COVID Patients Cannot: Delhi HC
The high court also said that it will monitor the supply of oxygen on a day-to-day basis.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, 20 April, said that sufficient oxygen was not being supplied to COVID-19 patients in the national capital and asked the Centre why there was a delay in restricting its use in industries.
“Industries can wait. Patients cannot. Human lives are at stake,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said to the Central government.
The bench said that it has come to their notice that doctors from Ganga Ram Hospital were forced to reduce oxygen being given to admitted patients due to its scarcity.
The Centre told the Delhi High Court that in order to meet the demand of oxygen, eight Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) Oxygen Generation plants are being installed in Delhi by the support of PM CARES Funds.
They added, “In order to ensure continuous supply of oxygen for medical purposes, the use of oxygen for industrial purposes has been banned except for certain critical industries, with effect from 22 April."
The court asked Central government standing counsel Monika Arora, “Which are these industries whose supplies of oxygen cannot be curtailed,” and asked her to take instructions on everything that can be done to boost the oxygen supply.
The high court also said that it will monitor the supply of oxygen, availability of COVID-19 beds, and other medical support, on a day-to-day basis.
During the hearing of a petition, revived by the HC on 19 April, it was noted that the pandemic is raging with much greater intensity and “it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse”.
Why the Delay?
The HC remarked, “You've said you'll ban the use of oxygen in industries by 22 April, but why not by today itself? What about lives that are being lost today? Will you tell the patients from today to wait for two days?”
The bench also made some important suggestions, including increasing the number of beds for COVID patients in Delhi, ramping up the vaccination drive and inoculating all those who are willing to take the vaccine, regardless of age.
‘Economic Interests Cannot Override Human Life’
Justice Sanghi reprimanded the Central government saying that, “If people keep dying the way they are dying, what is the point of producing more for the economy?"
- To divert oxygen supply for medical use, the court suggested cutting down production of iron, steel and petroleum industries for the next 2 to 3 weeks.
- “Ultimately, economic interests cannot override human life. We cannot lose people this way,” the court observed.
- It was further added, “We're not here to run the government. If you had taken this decision two days back, lives could have been saved."
‘Why Didn't We Foresee This? This Is Not Rocket Science’
Justice Sanghi observed that there was wastage of vaccine in India and urged the Central government to proceed with better planning.
- Justice Sanghi remarked, “Latest numbers indicate that out of 10 crore, 44 lakh vaccines have gone to waste. There is maximum wastage in Tamil Nadu. Please note that 44 lakh out of 10 crore is severe wastage. One vial can vaccinate up to 10 people,” LiveLaw reported.
- Citing the use of technology and how apps can be helpful in providing updates in a geo-sensitive manner, he further added, “We are a country that produces the best IT minds, why can't we deal with this? This is just bad planning. Why didn't we foresee this? This is not rocket science.”
24 Hours Limit For Testing Reports Has Been Increased to 48 Hours
The bench asserted that those samples that were taken first should be tested and that there shouldn’t be any discrimination.
- It was further said that the public should understand that now, even doctors and lab assistants have been affected, which is why testing limit of 24 hours has now been increased to 48 hours.
- The bench said, “They are also human. The 24 hours limit was given when numbers were 8,000 a day, now it is 25,000 a day,” LiveLaw reported.
Collection of Patients’ Data to Be Made More Efficient
The courts also observed why several forms had to be filled for testing, treatment, etc. when all the relevant information could be accessed through a person’s aadhar card.
- The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) assured the court saying that a notification will be issued today itself, telling the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) about the duplication of aadhar details.
- The court also directed the the Central government and ICMR to “review the form in which the information is required to be uploaded so as to reduce their burden and wastage of time”.
Shortage of Medicines
Justice Sanghi observed that in times of crisis, some people showed their good faces, some showed their ugly side, while referring to hoarding of medicines because of which there is a shortage of medicines in the market, forcing patients to buy life-saving drugs at high prices.
The court also observed that the Central government needs to treat everyone equally saying that, “Be it Delhi or UP or Rajasthan. If despite having medication you’re sending it to place A than B, despite B requiring more, you have blood on your hands.”
Shortage of Beds
The Delhi government submitted that while last year the Central government provided 4112 beds, this time they were only providing half of that, even though the number of COVID cases is four times higher.
The court ordered the Central government to allocate more beds for COVID patients from amongst their hospitals and submit a report regarding the same tomorrow.
Justice Sanghi said that he is personally aware of how the PT-PCR equipment being imported from outside India is getting stuck with customs for three to four days.
In its order, the bench said, “It is essential that all such medical equipment and medicines, which are imported should be cleared as top priority by customs.”
The court had previously, on Monday, directed the Centre and the Delhi Government to file affidavits on the availability of beds, ventilator and oxygen, in the national capital.
The Delhi High Court had also expressed its displeasure in the way in which the migrant workers had been dealt with during the pandemic.
(With inputs from LiveLaw)
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