The Delhi high court on Wednesday lashed out at the Centre for depleting supply of oxygen at many private hospitals in the national capital. The court was hearing a petition filed by Max Healthcare, which runs many hospitals in Delhi.
"Today, Max is before us, and we are sure soon there will be other hospitals too. Whatever Inox is supplying, is fine, but we are surprised that despite yesterday's order you haven't done anything," the bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.
The court had on Tuesday directed immediate implementation of an order to stop oxygen for industrial use to meet the demand by hospitals, ramping up of medicine supplies and vaccinating more people.
The judges sought to know that why the Centre isn't diverting oxygen from petroleum and steel industries to give to Covid-19 patients who are in dire need of it. "Even if these industries are run at lower capacity since medical oxygen is needed, heavens are not going to fall. But with the stoppage of oxygen at this stage hell will break loose," it said, calling the Centre's decision to not stop the supply of oxygen to the industries as "completely ridiculous".
"We don't care, beg, borrow, steal or requisition new plants if you want," said the judges asking the Centre to fulfill the hospitals' need of oxygen, critical for treatment and recovery of Covid-19 patients.
Justices Sanghi and Palli also took note of the tragedy in Maharashtra's Nashik where 24 Covid-19 patients lost their lives due to disruption in oxygen supply.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told the court that oxygen has been delivered at two of the Max hospitals - at Patparganj and Shalimar Bagh. He said that more oxygen is on its way and will reach the hospital shortly. "I have spoken to the highest authority, all efforts are being made to get oxygen supplied," said Mehta.
The lawyers appearing for Max hospital hold the court that they have oxygen stock for just eight hours at Vaishali and Gurgaon facilities. The court then said that shortage of oxygen has become a national emergency and called for exercising sovereign power. Mehta replied saying there could be some constraints and that he will talk to the Centre.
Many hospitals in Delhi, including Sir Ganga Ram, sent SOS to the government about their depleting stocks of oxygen. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia also held a press conference where he pleaded the Centre to intervene and ensure adequate supply to the hospitals in the city.
He also asked for increasing the oxygen quota of Delhi, which was okayed by the Centre late on Wednesday. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal thanked the Centre for it.
"Why is the Centre not waking up to the gravity of the situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals running out of oxygen but steel plants are running," the high court said.
Meanwhile, the Centre said on Wednesday that of the total 7,500 metric tonnes of oxygen being produced in India per day, 6,600 metric tonnes, as on date, is being allocated to states for medical use and assured that efforts are being made to increase its supplies in the coming days.
At a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul appealed to the states, hospitals and nursing homes to ensure rational use of oxygen.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan further said that a 24x7 control room has been set up where state governments can raise the problems bring faced by them like if their truck is stuck somewhere or the if movement is being hindered.