The full horror of an oxygen shortage in Delhi’s Covid spiral sank in before the High Court today when NDTV’s reports on top hospitals running out of oxygen were flagged by one of the judges.
Taking up the shortage of oxygen and other vital resources in the capital, which recorded 32,000 cases in a day on Monday, the judge and lawyers referred to NDTV’s news flashes about hospitals facing a shortage.
At least two top private hospitals in Delhi, Max and Ganga Ram,. After the reports aired on NDTV, government sources said the crisis in both hospitals was being addressed at the earliest.
At the Delhi High Court, one of the judges referred to a flash on NDTV on the premier Ganga Ram hospital left with just a few more hours of oxygen.
“While the matter was going on, a colleague sent an NDTV report saying Ganga Ram will run out of oxygen in eight hours. One of my brother judges has sent it to me now on WhatsApp. The situation is very serious,” said Justice Rekha Palli.
“NDTV has also flashed about the alarming situation in Max hospital on oxygen,” a lawyer said.
“We don’t know what to do now. This is alarming,” said the High Court.
“We have come to know that oxygen in Ganga Ram and Max is about to get over in next 8 hours. The need for the oxygen is now. Any delay in this regard will lead to loss of precious life,” the court added.
While the hearing was on, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted on the crisis: “A serious oxygen crisis persists in Delhi. I again urge the Centre to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi. Some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen.” One of the tweets shared the NDTV report.
I urge central govt wid folded hands to urgently provide oxygen to Delhi
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal)
The Delhi High Court judges said they had heard doctors at Ganga Ram Hospital were being forced to reduce oxygen to Covid patients because of the scarcity.
When the Centre said oxygen had been banned for industrial use from April 22 (Thursday), the court asked: “Why not do it today itself? Why wait for April 22? Lives are at stake. Are you going to tell patients to wait till April 22 for oxygen?”
Asserting that any delay would cost precious lives, the court said: “We direct the Centre to implement the decision forthwith and provide the supply to oxygen who are running out.”
Asking the Centre to cut down on oxygen for industries like petroleum and steel to ensure enough to treat Covid patients, the High Court said economic interests could not override human lives or “we are heading for disaster”. The court added: “Out of 130 crore, there are less than two crore official cases. Even if it’s five times, that means only 10 crore cases. We should protect the remaining people. At this rate, we might lose one crore people. We should act fast.”
Responding to Delhi’s allegations of discrimination in oxygen supply, the High Court said if medicines were not being sent to places that really needed them, “blood is on their hands”.
The Delhi government had alleged in court that it was falling short of oxygen for Covid patients because supplies were being diverted to “one of the largest states” of the country. Delhi did not take names, saying it could become political.
“If despite having the medication, it is being sent to region A instead of region B which is in need of said medication, then be sure, blood is on their hands,” the High Court said.