The Delhi High Court on Thursday was displeased that the Centre and AAP government officers were not verifying whether the hospitals in the national capital are giving real time data of availability of beds and asked them to "tighten" their administration and take stern action against "adamant hospitals" which violate the guidelines.
The observation by the high court came after the lawyer appointed as amicus curiae to assist in the matter informed the high court that four hospitals - RML Hospital, GTB Hospital, Apollo Hospital and Saroj Hospital -- are not updating availability of beds in real time and one of them also refused to admit a patient according to news reports.
Taking note of the deficiency pointed out by the amicus curiae, a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan said "too much friendship of these officers with the hospitals during the present situation was not good".
"Your (Centre and Delhi government) officer must be strict. You replace your officers if they are having too much friendship with hospitals. Either change your officer or we will do it. What the amicus has shown, your officers are unable to see. What is this?
"Your people should go and verify all the data (given by hospitals). You are taking lot many steps. Government - both central and state - are pumping money. Hard earned public money is going into all this and these are the facts of some adamant hospitals," a furious bench remarked and added "tighten your administration. Nothing more is needed to be done".
The high court, during the more than an hour long hearing via video conference, said that if the hospitals are adamant, "you are not powerless authority".
"Be strict in your approach. You are mighty governments. You should know what to do when your guidelines are not being obeyed by few hospitals.
"Take stern action. Don't be shy about it," the bench said and added that if no action taken against such hospitals all the money, efforts by doctors and officials and the various guidelines issued, "would go in vain".
The bench directed that action in accordance with law be taken against hospitals which do not carry out real time data update properly.
The high court suggested that officials, who are "faithful" to the government, be appointed in the hospitals to ensure that real time data is made available to the public about availability of beds and ventilators.
"Such persons should be more faithful to the government than the private hospitals which are violating your guidelines," the bench said while hearing a PIL initiated by it on the basis of a video clip of a man who had to run from pillar to post to get his mother hospitalised after she tested COVID-19 positive.
The bench also asked the central government about its assessment about the preparedness of the authorities in Delhi to handle the rising COVID-19 cases now and during the coming days, when the numbers are expected to go much higher.
Authorities said Delhi recorded 3,788 fresh coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the tally of cases to over 70,000, while the number of deaths due to COVID-19 climbed to 2,365.
The other deficiencies pointed out by advocate Om Prakash, who is amicus curiae, were that there was several days time lag in update of all kinds of data on Delhi government websites and its Delhi Corona app and also that the interactive page on the app was not at all interactive.
The amicus also told the court that the Delhi government has not stated how many of the ambulances are dedicated for COVID patients alone and how many have advanced life support system which is required for transporting very serious patients.
The high court asked Delhi government to look into the aspect of the time lag in updating of data on its websites and app and also to augment its helplines before the next date of hearing on July 16.
The bench also asked the Delhi government to ensure it has enough testing kits available for the expected increase in COVID-19 cases in the coming days.
On this aspect, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and advocate Chaitanya Gosain assured the bench that they were at least 15-20 days ahead with regard to requirement of testing kits vis-a-vis expected rise in cases.
He also told the court that the strategy laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) with regard to testing was being scrupulously followed.
Besides that almost 18,000 tests, majority of them rapid antigen testing, were being conducted each day in the city, he told the bench and added that all COVID patients in Delhi government hospitals were being treated free of cost.
A counselling facility for doctors, paramedics and nursing staff, to vent their stress, has also been set up in coordination with the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), Mehra told the court.