Delhi HC directs hospitals short on oxygen supply to approach nodal officers before the court

ILNS: The Delhi High Court on Friday directed hospitals in the city running out of oxygen and needing refills to first approach nodal officers before approaching the court.

A division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli passed the directions during the hearing of the petition filed by Brahm Healthcare and Batra Hospital seeking urgent supply of oxygen claiming they were left with only a few hours of supply.

The bench said the hospitals, which are running out of supplies, shall first approach the nodal officer appointed by the Delhi government, and if the same is not met by him also, the hospitals shall contact senior advocate Rahul Mehra and Delhi government additional standing counsel Satyakam.

“We’ll try and sort things out instead of becoming a post box,” Mehra said.

While passing the order, the court recorded that Udit Prakash, Special Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, GNCTD, is appointed as the nodal officer for addressing the said concerns on oxygen supply to the hospitals of Delhi.

“Mr Udit has been made aware and is instructed to immediately take steps. We have suggested to Mr Mehra that it is desirable to have more persons working with Mr Udit Prakash and their numbers be circulated,” the bench said.

While the matter was being heard through videoconferencing, the court was apprised about a virtual control room which is in place to manage the health crisis in the country due to COVID-19.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre along with Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and Advocate Monika Arora, said, “There is a Control Room of the Centre which interacts with the nodal officers of each states. All these officers are Secretary-level officers.”

“There is a virtual control room which has a lot of officers. There is a WhatsApp group (Virtual Control Room) where problems are addressed immediately and solutions are given thereof,” Mehta informed the court.

To these submissions, the court questioned Mehta if an officer from the Railways is a part of this Control Room, Mehta responded in the affirmative. However, Advocate Priyadarshi Manish appearing for Brahm Healthcare told the bench that the reality is different. “From 5 am, my cylinder was lying there and the nodal officer was not responding to the phone call,” he said.

Advocate Rakesh Malhotra, who is also a petitioner, supported the submissions made by Manish by giving example of some other nursing homes.

Adding to the submissions, Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for Batra Hospital, told the court, “We have 160 patients in ICU and others in the ward. We approached the nodal officer yesterday but nothing happened. We are a COVID-reserved facility. We require 7-8k L of oxygen. We got 1000 litres yesterday but it would get over in next 5-6 hours. We are not a nursing home. We are a COVID dedicated hospital. We don’t have a choice.”

Following these submissions, Mehra while taking the court through the allocation plan suggested the court if Delhi can get oxygen from Dehradun and other nearby plants for 2-3 days.

Agreeing to Mehra’s submissions, the court said, “This would make utilisation of tanks etc more effective. If we have very long distance to cover, each trip is going to take time. Maybe you have plants in UP.”

SG Mehta too agreed to the point and requested the Delhi goverment to ask its Chief Secretary to speak about the same to the Home Secretary in this regard.

“We have put it to the Solicitor General that the empowered group could look at the possibility of making re allocation so that to reduce the distance. Let secretary, health of the Delhi government examine the entire allocation plan and make a suggestion and place it before the Central government,” the court recorded in its order.

The matter will now be heard on Monday along with the pleas of other hospitals and Rakesh Malhotra.
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