Sunday, February 25, 2024

Delhi High Court Forms Expert Committee to Enhance Health Infrastructure In City

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Synopsis

Court was hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) initiated in 2017, focusing on the availability of ICU beds and ventilator facilities in government hospitals in Delhi 

The Delhi High Court has taken a significant step towards addressing the glaring deficiencies in the city’s health infrastructure by constituting an expert committee tasked with evaluating and proposing improvements to medical facilities in hospitals operated by both the Central and Delhi governments, as well as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora issued a comprehensive order acknowledging the severe inadequacies in Delhi’s government hospitals, ranging from shortages of medicines, machines, and manpower to the dire lack of critical healthcare facilities.

Observing the scarcity of essential medical resources across 19 Delhi government hospitals, which serve a population exceeding three crore, the Court stressed the urgent need for substantial investments and structural reforms in hospital management.

To address these challenges, the court outlined several key objectives for the expert committee, including:

  • Evaluating Delhi’s health infrastructure comprehensively and proposing optimization strategies.
  • Developing a mechanism for real-time monitoring of ICU and other bed capacities.
  • Ensuring an uninterrupted supply of medicines, equipment, and staffing.
  • Strengthening peripheral hospitals to reduce pressure on referral centers.
  • Expediently filling vacant positions with contract specialists and paramedics.
  • Formulating additional recommendations deemed necessary by the committee.

Court passed the orders while hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) initiated in 2017, focusing on the availability of ICU beds and ventilator facilities in government hospitals. Advocate Ashok Agrawal, acting as Amicus Curiae, brought to light an incident in which a man died after being denied treatment by four government hospitals. This revelation prompted Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj to acknowledge staff shortages and bureaucratic hurdles in implementing healthcare directives.

In response, the Health Secretary refuted the Minister’s allegations, presenting a different perspective on vacancies and hospital conditions. Nonetheless, the Amicus Curiae highlighted critical deficiencies, such as the absence of ICU beds in nine hospitals and the dysfunctional state of medical equipment in multiple institutions.

Consequently, court directed the expert committee to submit monthly progress reports, prioritizing critical healthcare needs and considering inputs from the Health Minister, Health Secretary, and Amicus Curiae.

The committee is expected to furnish an interim report within four weeks, with the next hearing scheduled for April 1. Details regarding committee members will be disclosed upon the release of the detailed order.

Last month, the court expressed serious apprehensions regarding the inadequate health infrastructure in the capital’s hospitals and reprimanded the government for its failure to ensure the operational status of facilities such as MRI and CT scans. The bench had expressed surprise upon learning that nearly 78 percent of radiologist positions in Delhi government hospitals were vacant.

The bench was informed that a hospital in Dwarka, with a sanctioned strength of 450 nurses, had almost 300 vacant positions. Due to the shortage of staff, the 1,200-bed hospital was functioning with only 250 beds.

While examining a detailed report submitted by the Delhi government, the court had remarked that although the data presented a seemingly positive picture, the actual situation on the ground was different.

Notably, in an order dated December 13, 2023, the court emphasized the pressing need to align medical facilities with the burgeoning population of the national capital. The court underscored the growing demand surpassing the available supply, particularly highlighting the scarcity of hospital beds.

Case Title: Court on its own motion v. Union of India & Ors. 

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