SC to hear petition against HC order over ICU bed reservation

A Special Bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear tomorrow an appeal filed by the Delhi government to lift a High Court stay of its direction to 33 hospitals to reserve 80% of its Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and B.R. Gavai is specially sitting for the case at 10.30 a.m. even as the court is closed for Deepavali vacations. The court is scheduled to reopen only on November 16.

Rising virus cases

The Health and Family Welfare Department of the Delhi government had on September 12 ordered these choice hospitals to reserve substantially more ICU/HDU beds for COVID-19 patients owing to the rising graph of infections.

“As a result of this proactive intervention, almost 500 patients were able to secure admission in ICU beds of these private nursing homes and hospitals. The rate chargeable for these beds have also been capped by the government in the interest of the public,” the Delhi government petition, filed through advocate Chirag M. Shroff, has contended in the apex court.

A Single Judge of the High Court on September 22 had, however, stayed the government order on a petition filed by Association of Healthcare Providers (India), which said the order would deprive non-COVID-19 patients of urgent medical care.

A Division Bench of the High Court, instead of lifting the stay, merely adjourned the case to late November.

“The Division Bench has failed to take judicial notice of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steadily rising graph of infections. Delhi has always been the preferred location for seeking medical treatment by patients even from neighbouring and other States,” the government appeal said.

The government said the HC failed to appreciate that the petition filed against the September 12 order was nothing but a cloaked attempt by certain hospital managements to guard their own financial interests.

The petition said of the 33 hospitals listed, 28 were already functioning as “partial COVID-19 hospitals”.

“Of those 28 hospitals, 22 were allotted land by the government at concessional rates. Five out of 33 hospitals have already been operating as fully COVID-19 hospitals. Four out of five hospitals have also been allotted land at concessional rates,” the petition has contended.

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