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Delhi HC stays ICU bed order

The Delhi high court on Tuesday stayed an order of the Delhi government reserving 80% of the ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, saying that prima facie, the order appeared to be “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and in violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

Justice Navin Chawla, while seeking the response of the Delhi government, said that the September 12 order reserving 80% ICU beds for Covid-19 patients was in violation of the fundamental rights. The court said that the state cannot discriminate between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.

“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,” the court said in its oral order.

During the hearing, the court also remarked angrily that it would not let a single person die because of this order. “You are missing what is for the good. I will not let even one patient die due to this. Has the government considered that we are talking about ICU beds…The question is about 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,” the court said.

The court’s decision comes on a plea by the Association of Healthcare Providers, alleging that such reserving of beds is also exposing non-Covid-19 patients to the risk of Covid-19 and that the order has been issued without any prior discussion with private hospitals and without understanding the current demand-supply situation of critical care beds.

In its plea, filed through advocates Sanyam Khetarpal and Nitesh Goyal, the petitioners had sought quashing of the order.

On Tuesday, appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Maninder Singh told the court that the order discriminates between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients, even though both require ICU treatment. He said the hospital cannot keep beds empty while denying them to non-Covid patients. He contended that none of the factors was taken into account before passing the order.

Appearing for the Delhi government, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told that the order was issued keeping in view the sudden surge of patients requiring intensive care. He said the situation is dynamic and requires urgent decisions.

He said the 33 hospitals have not challenged the order and hence the plea should be dismissed. The petitioner’s counsel said all the 33 hospitals were members of the petitioner association and he would file an affidavit in this regard.

After hearing the arguments, the judge said such an order would “prima facie” lead to a situation where a patient who is suffering from a disease other than Covid-19 is denied admission to an ICU bed. The court also said that it is not apparent as to what decision-making process and data was taken into consideration before passing such an order.

It asked the Delhi government to disclose the factors on which the decision to reserve ICU beds for Covid-19 patients was taken, and stayed the order till October 13

Meanwhile, reacting to the order, the Delhi government, in a statement, said, “It is extremely important to reserve ICU beds in private hospitals to deal with increasing corona cases. We will challenge this order tomorrow.” – Hindustan Times

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