A court in New Delhi India is now the last hope for many hospitals that struggle to get oxygen to patients in Covid-19, since the supplies are dangerously short while government officials are challenging who is responsible.
Delhi High Court’s two-judge bench has conducted almost daily video conferences to hear hospital requests calling for India’s constitutional right to life protection. Participants are local and federal officials.The intervention of the court saved lives, according to lawyers.
On Sunday, the hospital authorities approached the Delhi court as “a ultimate resort,” with only 30 minutes of oxygen left for 42 virus patients in the Sitaram Bhartia hospital in sight, and new provisions nowhere visible.
The judges ordered the government of Delhi to arrange provisions immediately.
“Oxygen cylinders arrived soon after the hearing, and a tank arrived a few hours later,” Trehan said.For two weeks the city has been affected by a shortage of medical oxygen, with unprecedented scenes of people dying in hospital beds, ambulances and outdoor car parks, blowing with air.
Delhi records some 20,000 new cases of Covid-19 every day. The city says it takes 976 tons of medical oxygen daily, but it is allocated by the federal government less than 490 tons as it is hit by the healthcare system.
The representatives of the national supply management administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the court to do whatever it could and blamed the rival Delhi government for politicizing the issue.
In late April, Sanghi pulled up government officials, saying they should “beg, borrow, steal or import” oxygen supplies to meet the city’s needs,
He said the state “cannot say ‘We can provide only this much and no more,’ so if people die, let them die”. The two-panel judges, Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli, have heard sparing oxygen quotas, transport problems and a shortage of tankers from Modi and the local administration.
And the judges sometimes lost their coolness. During the weekend, when representatives from Delhi flagged again that the supply of oxygen did not arrive on time, endangering patients’ lives, Justice Sanghi struck the officials, saying that “Over the head, the waters have gone. Sufficient is enough… sufficient is sufficient.”
‘Like water for fish’
Both the federal and the Delhi governments are criticized for failure to prepare adequately for the rise in infections. Some of the best hospitals in town have been asking for help since late April.
“Not only is this unprecedented, but right now this (court) hearing is literally like water is for fish,” said Prabhsahay Kaur, another lawyer who approached the court for a hospital’s oxygen needs and got help.
However, every day scenes of despair, urgency and frustration are performing.
In one hearing last week, a local government lawyer called a supplier of oxygen by phone to ask the speaker why the cylinders did not arrive at a hospital while the judges listened to the answers patiently. One lawyer ripped up arguments on Sunday (April 2) that his Hospital only had an hour of supplies of oxygen left, while another at the same time argued that he might ‘start dying’ at his hospital.
Members of the Indian diaspora around the world are trying to support their country of origin, donating money, shipping supplies, or lobbying governments to send aid, after seeing photos of makeshift funeral pyres in car parks and lines of desperate patients outside hospitals.
After a few minutes, another loud voice said: “There were a total of 140 patients. There’s just an hour left. We’re in trouble… there’s a crisis going on “As a judge attempted to calm the speaker and encouraged state officials to move quickly,
In another conversation, a home ministry official said that its officers were operating on a war footing and were seeking the court’s approval.
India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the federal government, said, “We desperately need … God’s blessings”.