Delhi High Court on Monday expressed anguish that there are only six CT scan machines in all Delhi government hospitals for three crore citizens and stressed the need to ramp up infrastructure and fill vacancies in the health sector.
The high court pointed out that people are losing lives because they are not being attended to at government hospitals due to a shortage of facilities and staff.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora noted that Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, in a status report, has admitted that there are a lot of shortcomings, including shortage of doctors, paramedics and medicines, and also given his suggestions.
Bharadwaj, who inspected several government hospitals, claimed that whenever he convened meetings with hospital staff, Delhi Health Secretary SB Deepak Kumar remained absent.
However, Kumar, who was present in the court, denied the allegations and said he attended all the meetings.
“I have accompanied the minister in various hospitals and, wherever I have not been able to go, I informed him and sent my OSD (Officer on Special Duty) or some other officials with him. I have always been there in the meetings and the minister’s minutes of meetings will show my presence,” Kumar submitted.
There are 39 hospitals run by the Delhi government.
Bharadwaj, in the status report filed through Santosh Kumar Tripathi — the Delhi government’s standing counsel — said the existing hospitals, which have been functional for decades, have vacancies of more than 33 per cent of the total sanctioned strength for doctors (more than 75 per cent sanctioned posts are vacant in some specialties) and more than 20 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of paramedics, leading to under-utilisation of the existing infrastructure.
The report said the minister wrote to Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena on January 2, urging him to further request the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and direct the Services department to expedite the selection and appointment of doctors and paramedics.
He also requested Saxena to direct the Health and Family Welfare department to take necessary steps for hiring doctors and paramedics against the vacant sanctioned posts on a contractual basis for a period of one year or till regular incumbents join through UPSC/DSSSB (Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board ), whichever is earlier.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated on its own in 2017 concerning the issue of non-availability of ICU beds and ventilator facility in government hospitals.
In January, the court was told that a man died after being denied treatment by three Delhi government and one central government hospitals on various pretexts, including non-availability of ICU/ventilator bed or CT scan.
The victim was stated to have been taken to the Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and the Lok Nayak Hospital and the Centre’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
The court asked the health secretary how the authorities plan to ramp up hospital infrastructure.
“There are six CT scan machines in all government hospitals for the whole of Delhi, which has a population of three crore. How can you have just six CT scan machines for a population of three crore? Infrastructure needs to be ramped up many times. How are you going to augment it, it can’t be done overnight?” the bench said, adding that enough consideration has not been paid to the health sector for a long time.
The court said that while the health secretary claimed that all six CT scan machines are functional, affidavits have been given by two institutions in a different matter saying these are not fully functional.
“They say it has been lying in a state of dysfunction for a very long time. Your officers are not briefing you properly. We sitting in this court know they are not functioning properly and there are frequent breakdowns in the machines. How come you don’t know about it? it asked.
The court said it does not wish to enter any blame game and added that there may be historical reasons for it as the infrastructure has not been ramped up for many years.
“No one should try to pass the buck and, if there is any challenge, it should be taken head-on. When three crore people are looking up to us, we should not say there is some squabbling going on between us. You should not convey that impression, then it becomes very difficult to deal with the challenge, so all parties should behave maturely,” it said.
It said judges are not cut out from society and they also know how machines provided by the government function.
“You have to ramp up your infrastructure, this can’t happen that you don’t have a CT scan machine in a cancer hospital. You have to improve manpower,” it said.
The bench, which said it intends to set up a committee to look into the shortcomings and consider the suggestions of various authorities and give a report to the court, asked the various departments involved in the matter to give their reports and suggestions by February 9.
The court also asked the health secretary to look into the issue of the large number of vacancies. PTI