Delhi HC asks govt to hold review meeting by January 18 on ICU beds reservation for Covid-19 patients

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court Tuesday asked the Delhi government to conduct by January 18 a review meeting on reservation of ICU beds in 33 private hospitals here for Covid-19 patients.

The court, which was informed that the Delhi government has now reduced Covid-19 ICU beds reservation to 40 per cent, said it will continue hearing the arguments next week on a plea by association of healthcare providers (AHP) seeking quashing of the government’s September 12 order to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in these hospitals.

Justice Navin Chawla, after hearing arguments for several hours, listed the matter for further hearing on January 19.

“You (Delhi government) do a review meeting by January 18 and we will hear it on January 19,” the judge said.

During the hearing, additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, representing Delhi government, said not a single non-Covid-19 patient has come to the court that he was denied treatment in the hospital due to 80 per cent reservation.

He stated further that not even a single private hospital has approached the high court claiming that they suffered financial loss due to this reservation order.

“We have already brought it down to 40 per cent. The September 12, 2020 decision (to reserve 80 per cent ICU beds in 33 private hospitals for Covid-19 patients) was well informed and a rationale decision. It was not arbitrary and has not caused any financial loss to the hospitals,” he contended.

He was responding to the arguments of senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing AHP, that ICU beds were kept vacant and no payment was made by the government to the hospitals facing financial losses.

“The government wants private hospitals to support and help it or it wants them to be wiped out after sometime. How will the private hospitals survive when ICU beds are kept vacant for such a long time. They will be shut down,” he contended.

He further argued that there was no validity or permissibility to continue with the September 12, 2020 order.

The counsel submitted it was the state’s prerogative to provide medical support and private entities are required to join hands and help together but “this cannot be done at the whims and fancies of the state which has failed to perform its duty”.

The Delhi government, also represented by advocates Sanjoy Ghose and Urvi Mohan, had earlier told the high court that it has decided to de-escalate to 60 per cent the number of ICU beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in 33 private hospitals here as was recommended by a De-escalation Committee.

It had told the court that the decision was taken on December 27, 2020 after a two-member panel, comprising the director of AIIMS and a Niti Aayog member, endorsed the recommendations of the de-escalation Committee to reduce from 80 to 60 per cent the ICU beds reserved in the hospitals.

The September 12, 2020 order of the Delhi government was earlier stayed by the high court on September 22 last year. However, a division of the high court on November 12, 2020 vacated the stay order taking into account the change in circumstances since the time the stay order was passed.

The petitioner association had told the high court that the 33 private hospitals are its members and the Delhi government’s order shall be quashed as it was passed in an irrational manner and is ex-facie perverse.

The ASG, however, had contended that the situation of Covid-19 infection in Delhi has become critical recently and the Covid-19 cases are spiralling and it was critical that 80 per cent of ICU/ HDU beds be reserved for Covid-19 patients in the 33 private hospitals.

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