New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has said there appeared to be a lack of communication between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and AIIMS which led to several patients who tested positive for COVID-19 being shifted to other hospitals instead of the dedicated COVID-19 facility at AIIMS.
The high court noted that these were outstation patients who had come to AIIMS for treatment of non-COVID ailments and later tested positive for coronavirus while residing in the night shelter within the hospital campus.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar directed both All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Delhi government to appoint their respective nodal officers and any communication between the two related to COVID-19 patients be addressed to the nodal officer of the other party.
"It appears to us that there is lack of communication protocol between AIIMS and Delhi government," the bench said.
The direction was issued after 20 patients, being treated at AIIMS for non-COVID ailments, were transferred to Delhi government hospitals after they tested positive for coronavirus.
On this aspect, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra alleged that AIIMS was not accessible for common man and that the hospital was turning away COVID-19 patients, unless they were well connected and influential.
Delhi government, in its affidavit, said that the persons who were found COVID positive were admitted to its hospitals and not at AIIMS, for the reason that the decision to shift them to a hospital had been taken in the night, and at that hour, the authorities at AIIMS were not available.
The contentions were disputed by AIIMS which said that it admits any person who reports at the emergency, and is found COVID positive and requires hospitalisation instead of home quarantine.
The hospital also said that nobody from Delhi government contacted any officer of AIIMS with regard to the 20 patients.
It also said that these patients could have reported at the emergency (which they did not) and, thereafter, they would have been admitted to one of the AIIMS facilities if they were found COVID-19 positive, depending on their condition.
The direction by the bench came while hearing two PILs seeking to address the grievance of about hundred out-station patients and their attendants, residing in night shelters here, who were earlier being provided treatment for several ailments at the AIIMS which allegedly stopped treating them after COVID-19 outbreak.
Another issue the high court took note of was regarding testing of the outstation patients, receiving treatment at AIIMS for non-COVID ailments and residing at night shelters inside and near the hospital.
The bench was concerned how the mother of one patient, residing in the night shelter within AIIMS, was allowed to go back home without testing for coronavirus while her son's test report was awaited.
The high court also noted that another patient residing in the same shelter was not quarantined despite testing positive for COVID-19 which led to spread of the infection to amongst many other inmates of the night shelter.
"This aspect raises a serious concern, " the bench said and asked Rachna Malik, a social worker and one of the petitioners, to file an affidavit giving particulars of when the two patients were tested, when their test reports of COVID-19 as positive were received and when the mother of one of them left and when these two persons were quarantined.
The bench took note of another issue that only 51 of the inmates of the night shelter were tested for coronavirus, even though there were in excess of 90 persons residing in the night shelter, where the other two patients were living.
"We had asked the respondents (AIIMS and Delhi government) to provide justification for the same. It has come out from the status report and the documents placed on record, that the said 51 persons were the patients who were undergoing treatment at AIIMS. It appears that only the patients were tested, and not their attendees," the bench noted.
The bench said the "failure to test all the occupants of the night shelter, who were more than 90 in number, may have led to a further outbreak of the viral disease amongst many other persons with whom they may have come in contact".
It directed AIIMS and Delhi government to "ensure that all such occupants of the night shelter, who are found COVID-19 positive, are quarantined so that they do not infect others, who may have not got the infection yet".
"We direct the Health department of the Delhi government to look into this aspect so that such like situations do not recur in future," the bench said and listed the matter for further hearing on June 10.