Within 24 hours of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement that he is reserving Delhi government-run hospitals and even some private hospitals for residents of the capital for treatment of the coronavirus disease (COVID), Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has overruled the decision. The lieutenant governor said in an order everyone would be treated in Delhi without “discrimination”. He asserted that treatment “should not be denied to any patient on grounds of being a non-resident”.
Baijal overturned also the Delhi government’s order on testing only those showing COVID-19 symptoms. He said asymptomatic cases and high-risk contacts of a virus patient would be tested too.
Baijal cited in the order the Supreme Court that had held in various judgments that “Right to Health” was an integral part of “Right to Life” in the constitution. All government and private hospitals and nursing homes have to extend all COVID-19 treatment facilities without any discrimination against residents or non-residents, the order said.
Kejriwal, who has reportedly shown COVID symptoms, will go for a coronavirus test tomorrow. He had announced yesterday that the 10,000 beds under the Delhi government would be reserved for those domiciled in Delhi. Everybody can but use beds in union government-run facilities, he had said. Private hospitals offering special treatment would be open to all. After the announcement, he reopened Delhi’s border, which, he said, had been sealed over the influx of patients from other cities.
The chief minister had said he had acted on the advice of a five-member committee of doctors that had predicted that by the end of June, Delhi would need 15,000 beds. “They believe that the 9,000 beds that are currently with us will be taken over in three days if we allow people from other states to take admission,” Kejriwal had said at yesterday’s virtual press conference.
Kejriwal drew flak for the decision from the ruling BJP as well as the INC.
Learning about the order from Baijal, BJP MP Gautam Gambhir tweeted, “Excellent step by LG to overrule Delhi Govt’s idiotic order of not treating patients from other states! India is ONE and we have to fight this pandemic together!”
Senior INC leader P Chidambaram had questioned the move in tweets, too, saying: “Mr Kejriwal says Delhi hospitals are only for Delhiites. Will he please tell us who is a Delhiite? If I live or work in Delhi, am I a Delhiite?”
The former union minister said he thought if anyone had enrolled in Jan Arogya Yojana/Aayushman Bharat, they could seek treatment in any enlisted hospital, public or private, anywhere in India. “Did Mr Kejriwal take legal opinion before he made his announcement,” asked Chidambaram.
Kejriwal and his party AAP had justified the decision in the backdrop of allegations that hospitals were turning away COVID-19 patients or suspected cases. Many private hospitals claimed as well that their beds were full despite a Delhi government app showing available beds.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said Delhi would have around 56,000 coronavirus cases in two weeks, going by the doubling rate in the capital.