The Delhi High Court on Wednesday pulled up the Delhi government for not yet fully operationalising its 1,241 bedded Indira Gandhi Hospital, which presently has only 80 beds available that too for non-serious COVID patients, saying the state should learn from the “bitter experience” of the people during the present onslaught of the second wave of the pandemic. A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said that had the Delhi government taken up the completion of the hospital as a pressing issue, it would have been up and running by now.
“If a third wave comes, as many experts are warning it might, and your facility is not up and running (to full capacity), then again we would be back to this situation,” it said after senior advocate Rahul Mehra said completion of the hospital was not a pressing issue as around 4,500 beds were available in the national capital at present. He said that in view of the availability of such a large number of beds, there was no “grave urgency” to complete the operationalisation of the hospital.
The bench said that according to the Delhi government the situation regarding availability of beds may have improved, but the court cannot forget the situation which existed just a couple of days ago when serious COVID-19 patients in need of oxygen supported and ICU beds, ventilators and medicines were running from pillar to post to get admitted in a hospital and many of whom succumbed to the disease without getting the chance to be treated. The court further said that the experts were of the view that a larger third wave would come and therefore, the state has to “use its resources to the hilt” to complete ongoing healthcare projects and make them operational at the earliest, “lest we are faced with the same situation where we run out of hospital beds and infrastructure.
The bench said that since the state has “heavily invested” in the project for the benefit of the citizens, “there is no reason why the state should not complete the project”. The court observed that the project appeared to have been not completed due to “lethargy of the state”.
To this, Mehra said there has been no lethargy on the part of the state and in fact the central government was not allocating beds for the national capital as it had promised. The central government was not being put to terms, he told the bench which said he was taking the matter “on a tangent”.
The court directed the state to file an affidavit giving the time lines that were initially set for completion of the hospital, the reason for not completing it within that and the subsequent new time frame set for finishing the project. The bench said the time lines should be realistic and once placed before it, “should be adhered to”.
The court said the affidavit be filed within 10 days and listed the matter for hearing on May 24. “This is urgent. Please understand. We all became complacent after the first wave and when things eased up. That should not happen,” the court said and added that the infrastructure and equipment at the temporary medical establishments set up by it can be utilised in the hospitals once the temporary units are not required. The directions from the court came after it was informed that only 80 beds were operational in the Indira Gandhi Hospital and of that only 8 were in occupation.
The court was also told there was no piped oxygen, ICU beds or ventilators available at the hospital. On Tuesday, the high court had expressed its displeasure over the Delhi government making an incorrect statement on May 10 that 250 beds in the new dedicated COVID facility in Dwarka — Indira Gandhi Hospital — were already operational.
Thereafter, the Delhi government had told the court that 150 beds would be operationalised during the day and another 100 would be ready by Wednesday.