The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday asked the States of Punjab, Haryana and UT of Chandigarh to "consider home delivery of oxygen cylinders by Municipal Authorities" after noting that the same would "reduce the pressure on the Administration as well as on the Government and Private hospitals."
A division bench comprising of Justice Rajan Gupta and Justice Karamjit Singh also directed the States to ensure that dedicated phoneline for dealing with the grievances of patients on oxygen support at home are publicized by way of broadcast, TV, Radio and telephone companies.
"Needless to observe that in case proper oxygen supply is available to those patients who are on oxygen support at home, it would reduce the pressure on the Administration as well as on the Government and Private hospitals. 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." The Bench observed.
During the course of hearing, the Court was apprised by amicus curiae Rupinder Khosla about the reduction of oxygen quota allocated to the State of Haryana by 20 MT from the Panipat plant. It was also submitted that due to the issue of over heating of the said plant, it was not able to function in its 100% capacity.
Additional Advocate General appearing for the State of Haryana informed the Court that it was important that timely supply of oxygen is made as the situation is so critical that several lives may be lost in the State in next 24 hours.
On the other hand, Additional Advocate General appearing for the State of Punjab expressed the same difficulty in terms of procuring oxygen for the State. It was further submitted that the State was allocated quota from a plan in Rourkela however the transportation from the said Plant was very difficult.
Standing Counsel for the UT of Chandigarh assured the Court that for dealing with the issue of availability of beds, the SDM of the respective zone in every sector shall be asked to step in to help those patients who are on oxygen support at home.
"He submits 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. We hereby direct that needful be done by today evening. 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" The Court directed.
Furthermore, both the States of Punjab and Haryana assured the Court that special arrangements have been made by them to ensure that oxygen is promptly supplied to patients on oxygen support at home.
"For this purpose, dedicated telephone numbers shall be publicised by way of broadcast and on TV/Radio as well through the telephone companies." The Bench went ahead to direct.
Moreover, the Court also took note of the issue of seized medicines and oxygen cylinders retained as case property which have to be released and asked the counsel appearing for the States to "ascertain whether such a situation is existing in three States, if so, provisions of law under which same can be released."
During the course of hearing, amicus curiae Khosla also informed the Bench that certain ventilators were lying unused in the Institutes of Medical Sciences, Mohali, Barnala and other places in Punjab. He also submitted that such ventilators must be put in use immediately in wake of the recent surge in covid cases.
"He shall apprise the court of the action taken . 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 bench directed.
While posting the matter for further hearing on 7th May, the Bench further observed thus:
"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."