A day after Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal revoked the Delhi government’s order to reserve beds in its hospitals for Delhi residents, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the Capital is likely to have 550,000 Covid-19 cases by July 31, for which 80,000 beds would be needed, and accused the L-G of not having “any plan” for the surge in hospital admissions.
The Delhi government also expressed its disappointment over the Centre not declaring that the Capital has reached the community transmission stage, even as health minister Satyendar Jain said they are unable to establish contact tracing in almost 50% of the Covid cases being recorded.
The issue of hospital beds turned into a war of words, with the L-G releasing a statement late evening, in which he said that rather than “discriminating between patients, the goal of the government should be to plan and prepare for adequate infrastructure”. “We are all Indians and Delhi belongs to all!” the L-G’s statement read.
Kejriwal, in a digital press briefing on Sunday, announced that hospitals under the Delhi government and some private ones will be reserved for the people of Delhi till the Covid-19 crisis subsides. The order was overruled by the L-G on Monday saying that ‘right to health’ has been held as an integral part of ‘right to life’ under the Constitution by the Supreme Court — a point which the L-G office on Tuesday said was clarified to Sisodia and health minister Jain during Tuesday’s meeting of the state disaster management authority (SDMA).
At the meeting, which was chaired by the L-G, Sisodia urged Baijal to reconsider his decision.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is the vice-chairperson of the authority empowered Sisodia to attend the meeting since he was down with Covid-like symptoms, though his test result which came out in the evening was negative.
After the meeting, Sisodia told reporters, “We asked the L-G about his predictions on the increase in Covid cases in the coming days. We also asked him how many cases might come from outside. But, he had no answers. We also asked if people from outside come to Delhi, then how many beds would be needed. He had no answer to that as well.”
He said, there was, however, a consensus that considering the current doubling rate of 12.6 days, around 5.5 lakh cases are expected in the state by July 31 and 80,000 beds will be needed at that time.
“The prediction is based from the time when the borders were sealed due to lockdown and only residents of the state were coming for the treatment in Delhi hospitals. It was considering the surge in Covid cases that the Delhi Cabinet decided to reserve Delhi government and private hospitals for those living in the Capital. Now the decision of opening the hospitals for all will create a lot of obstacles for the people of Delhi,” Sisodia said.
Jain said that any given point of time, nearly 50% of patients treated in Delhi’s private hospitals are from outside the state and that in government hospitals, the proportion goes up to nearly 70%.
“During the lockdown in both private and government hospitals, the occupancy of people from outside was 10% and only the planned surgeries were happening. This could have been continued for some time but the L-G has not agreed to this,” he said.
The L-G responded by saying he is “fully aware” of the need to ramp up medical infrastructure. “In fact, from time to time several ideas and strategies have been discussed in the SDMA meeting chaired by the L-G to augment the medical infrastructure to meet the rising requirement… In today’s SDMA meeting also, ideas e.g. use of spaces like Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Tyagraj Stadium, JLN Stadium, Pragati Maidan to make large makeshift medical facilities were discussed. It was also decided to utilize banquet halls, marriage places, etc. to ramp up the facilities,” the L-G’s office said.
Baijal has also advised the officers concerned to invoke Section 50 of Disaster Management Act, 2005 for expeditious procurement and timely setting up of required infrastructure, it further said.
The SDMA meeting also saw a lack of consensus between the Delhi government and the Central government officers over the issue of community spread in Delhi.
“The Central government officials present in the meeting said it has not happened yet in the city. So, there is no need to discuss this matter,” Sisodia said.
A city is said to have reached the community transmission stage once it is no longer possible to trace the source of infection. Health minister Jain said that the director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria, has also stated that there is a community spread in the containment zones of Delhi.
“On behalf of the state government, we can only say that there is a significant spread but only the Central government can say if it is community spread or not,” said Jain.
While health secretary Preeti Sudan did not respond on the matter, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, during a recent interview to HT, has said that Delhi government wasn’t giving the true picture of the Covid situation with labs and doctors being threatened. “Hiding numbers will not do; you have to actively search for cases as part of covid containment strategy,” he said.
Two members of a panel constituted by the government to aid in the augmentation of the city’s health care infrastructure said the L-G’s decision to make available beds in Delhi hospitals to those from all states will be detrimental.
“The committee has said Delhi will need 40,000 beds by mid-July. These calculations are based solely on Delhi’s population and the number of cases being reported from the city every day. Now, if these facilities were to be utilised by people from neighbouring states, the government will need to arrange thousands more beds over and above the projected requirement,” Dr RK Gupta, a member of the committee and former president of the Delhi Medical Association, said.
Dr Arun Gupta, a member of the committee and president of the Delhi Medical Council, said: “Health is a state subject and the government utilises the tax payers’ money on health care services. So a government’s primary responsibility is to the people of Delhi. The Delhi government order only kept aside Delhi government-run hospitals and some private hospitals for its residents; people from neighbouring states could still go to central government-run hospitals, hospitals run by civic bodies, or the super speciality private hospitals. Now, Delhi residents will be at a disadvantage.”