[UPSC Mains Focus] Delhi diktat

June 8, 2020 | Indian Express (Link)

Mains Paper 2: Health

Prelims level: WHO

Mains level: Healthcare infrastructure and related issues


  • FIR on a hospital for procedural oversight in testing speaks of a high-handedness that is ill-advised, especially in crisis.
  • As India begins to unlock, a steadily rising infection curve and viral load puts it among the world’s most burdened nations.
  • The capital is a hotspot, and Delhi’s fresh infections have numbered in four figures for days now.

Testing, Testing, Testing:

  • When the pandemic first spread and the world was bracing for a shock, the WHO had prescribedtesting, testing, testingas the first line of defence.
  • As in Delhi, it anticipates a fresh wave of infections triggered by the unlocking, the most visible initiative of the Arvind Kejriwal government is to suspend testing in the respected Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and slap an FIR on it.
  • The government accuses the hospital of not using the RT-PCR app, which shares test data efficiently with all stakeholders. Suspending testing affects lives more deeply.
  • Admissions have become chaotic and the hospital finds it difficult to schedule critical procedures.

Accessibility of testing:

  • In many cities, adequate access to testing has become a stumbling block for families with critically ill members.
  • With facilities defined as COVID and non-COVID, the status of patients must be declared at the time of admission.
  • Patients and their families are finding it difficult to get themselves tested, and as a consequence, there are reports of patients being turned away by hospitals.
  • Ideally, everyone who has concerns should have the right to be tested.
  • Denial conveys the public impression that having failed to flatten the infection curve, the government wants to flatten the data curve by limiting access to testing.

Invited controversies:

  • While the Delhi government has worked to make beds available for COVID-19 patients, it has also invited controversies.
  • Its pandemic data has failed to tally with that of hospitals providing it, and there have been public complaints that government data on free beds does not tally with reality.
  • A day before filing the FIR, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had accused private hospitals of allotting beds for huge markups, without naming them.

Why the reticence?

  • If the allegation is true, then they are hoarding a scarce resource and gouging desperate people during a crisis.
  • They should be named and proceeded against.