New Delhi Hospital Rushes to Court to Get Critical Oxygen Supply
A health worker check oxygen cylinders at a makeshift Covid-19 quarantine facility set up in a banquet hall in New Delhi. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

New Delhi Hospital Rushes to Court to Get Critical Oxygen Supply

New Delhi’s largest hospital chain operator had to knock on the door of the city state’s high court Wednesday night after 1,400 Covid-19 patients across the Indian capital were put at risk due to “dangerously low” levels of oxygen supply.

Two back-to-back emergency hearings ended late Wednesday night after an oxygen tanker finally left for one branch of the Max Hospital, which had over 250 Covid-19 patients in a critical state and the lowest level of crucial oxygen. The Delhi High Court’s two-judge panel headed by Justice Vipin Sanghi expressed “shock and dismay” over the government’s neglect and directed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration to “beg, borrow, steal” but ensure adequate oxygen supply for hospitals.

“This is just bad planning. Why didn’t we foresee this? This is not rocket science,” Justice Sanghi said during the hearing.

New Delhi Hospital Rushes to Court to Get Critical Oxygen Supply

The country with the fastest-growing Covid-19 caseload was caught utterly unprepared for a new wave of infections that started surging in March. On Thursday, India reported 314,835 new infections, the world’s highest daily tally and a record 2,104 deaths in 24 hours with most hospitals in the capital city gasping for oxygen supplies. The official statistics belie the real extent of the crisis as crematoriums across the country are flooded with dead bodies.

The late-night courtroom drama, with the state and federal government lawyers bickering over oxygen supplies to the national capital, which has among the best health care infrastructure in the country, is a grim indicator of a worse situation in the hinterlands. The nation’s social media has turned into a helpline with desperate calls for help to secure medicines, hospital beds, and oxygen cylinders.

States, including Maharashtra that is home to the country’s financial capital Mumbai, are in a constant tussle with the federal government for supplies of oxygen and crucial drugs. During the hearing on Wednesday, the Delhi state government’s lawyer urged the court to order a corridor with adequate security arrangements for oxygen tankers.

Lawyers for the federal government and Inox Air Products Ltd., a company supplying oxygen, informed the court that one of the reasons for the immediate shortage was a leak reported in Maharashtra. Two dozen people died due to lack of oxygen after a newly constructed gas supply tank leaked at a municipal hospital in Nasik city, the Indian Express reported.

The court asked the federal government to divert all oxygen from industries for medical use if needed. It will resume hearing on the petition Thursday afternoon.

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