The Punjab and Haryana High court asked Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to consider home delivery of oxygen cylinders by municipal authorities believing “in case proper oxygen supply is available to those patients who are on the oxygen support at home, it would reduce the pressure on the Administration as well as on the Government and Private Hospitals.”
In the earlier proceedings, the petitioner submitted before the court that there is complete chaos because of the spread of coronavirus as Covid guidelines were not being followed in the region. And according to the State Health Department submission, it is assumed that proper arrangements are being made and the supply of oxygen has been increased to 136 MT.
Amicus Curiae Mr Khosla indicated a very serious situation that has arisen in Haryana as its quota of oxygen has been reduced by 20 MT from the Panipat plant. Besides, the said plant has overheated and is, thus, not functioning at 100% capacity. The allocation of 70 MT made from the Rourkela plant takes about four days to reach Haryana. He further pointed out he has received an e-mail from C.K. Birla Hospital situated in Sector 51, Gurugram stating therein that it has 17 critical patients who are totally dependent on oxygen but they have supply left only till 3 PM today. According to him, there must be other hospitals facing the same difficulty.
The Additional Advocate General, Haryana made submissions on similar lines and he has referred to one judgment of the Supreme Court wherein a direction has been given for creation of buffer emergency stock with the collaboration of State and the Centre to avoid further loss of life. Further, he submitted that, “if timely supply of oxygen is made, the situation is so critical that several lives may be lost in the State in next 24 hours.”
The Senior Standing Counsel, UT, Chandigarh has assured the court that in case of any such problem, the SDM of the concerned zone in every sector shall be asked to step in to help those patients who are on oxygen support at home. Hesubmits that one dedicated zone-wise phone line shall be allocated and widely publicised by way of broadcast on radio, television and assistance of telephone companies.
The High Court states that, “In case, it is found that there is hoarding of any sort, concerned SDM shall be at liberty to seek police help which shall come into action immediately and take action as the circumstances warrant. In case any report of disobedience of these orders is received by this court, it shall consider initiating punitive action. Likewise, in the States of Punjab and Haryana, Nodal Committees have already been created.” And for the purpose of supply of oxygen in every district, dedicated telephone numbers shall be publicised by way of broadcast and on TV/Radio as well through the telephone companies.
On the other hand, Additional Advocate General of Punjab has expressed the similar difficulties in regard to the procurement of oxygen in the region. He submitted that the state has been allotted quota from a plant in Rourkela but it is not easy to transport to Punjab. The vehicles, coming by road, take number of days to reach the State.
Both the States have assured the bench of Justice Rajan Gupta and Justice Karamjit Singh that special arrangements on the same lines as UT, Chandigarh shall be made in every District to ensure that oxygen is promptly supplied to the patients who are on oxygen support at home and for this purpose, dedicated telephone numbers shall be publicized by way of broadcast and on TV/Radio as well through the telephone companies.
The Punjab & Haryana High Court further stated, “We also believe that advisories have also been issued by various health departments to the patients to stay at home if the condition is mild to moderate. In such circumstances, even home delivery of oxygen cylinders can be considered by the State preferably by Municipal Authorities as Health personnel are already overburdened. Apart from providing succor to the inflicted public, it shall prevent hoarding of oxygen cylinders.”
Furthermore, the HC directed the States/UT to ensure the creation of a web portal that maintains ready information in regard to the availability of beds in Government/private hospitals, availability of oxygen, drugs, vaccine, and vaccination centers including guidelines related to the use of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab with the people of the region.
Khosla has also informed the Court about the ventilators are lying unused in the Institutes of Medical Sciences, Mohali, Barnala, and other places in Punjab to which the court stated, “It shall also be ensured whether any such unused equipment is available in any other part of State to ensure that it is put to use in this emergent situation.”
The Division Bench wound up the proceedings, saying, “Needless to observe that this court expects that the necessary steps are taken at the earliest to ensure that there is no further loss of life due to paucity of oxygen in the State. In case of crisis, however, State is at liberty to draw from the ‘buffer stock’ of oxygen created under orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 30.4.2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2021.”
The next hearing to be taken up for further hearing on May 7.