Armed Forces playing stellar role in war against COVID-19
Considering the spike in COVID-19 cases, India’s Armed Forces are setting up hospitals, airlifting oxygen tankers and other supplies and making the services of its medical personnel available to civilian patients.
With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic stretching the limits of the health infrastructure and personnel in many parts of the country, the Armed Forces have stepped in to minimize the damage. As part of their initiatives in this regard, the Army, Navy and the Air Force are creating medical facilities in large numbers and also making military medical infrastructure and services of its personnel available to civilians.
Moreover, considering the urgent need for oxygen supplies, Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed its aircraft to transport the life-saving gas. Similarly, several large hospitals have been set up by the Armed Forces at various locations in the country for treating COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat to discuss the situation. During the meeting, the CDS informed the Prime Minister that all medical personnel from the Armed Forces, who have retired or taken premature retirement in the last two years, are being recalled to work in COVID-19 facilities. Similarly, all medical officers on staff appointments at Command HQ, Corps HQ, Division HQ and similar HQ of Navy and IAF are being employed at hospitals. Nursing personnel are also being assigned in large numbers.
Considering the oxygen shortage, the cylinders available with the Armed Forces in various establishments are being released for hospitals. Apart from oxygen, the IAF is engaged in transporting other essential items also. The IAF has deployed its C-17 Globemaster-III and IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft to transport empty oxygen containers or tankers from their place of use to oxygen plants and filling stations. The defence forces are also airlifting high capacity tankers from places abroad such as Singapore and the UAE.
In another initiative, DRDO, along with the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), has set up the 500-bed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) COVID hospital in New Delhi, while another facility with 900 beds has been inaugurated at Ahmedabad. Meanwhile, work is underway on a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow and a 750-bed facility in Varanasi. The AFMS is also importing 23 portable oxygen generation plants from Germany.
Coordination with states
Based on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s instructions, the Armed Forces are in touch with state governments to provide assistance, while defence PSUs, ordnance factories and DRDO are providing oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil authorities. Military hospitals around the country are also enhancing their facilities. All the hospitals run by the 63 Cantonment Boards have been asked to accommodate Cantonment residents and those who seek treatment.
Rajnath Singh has also sanctioned delegation of emergency financial powers to AFMS, with a limit of Rs 5 crore for Lt-Generals, Rs 3 crore to Major Generals and Rs 2 crore to Brigadiers, to combat the disease. Extension to short-service commissioned military doctors till December 31 is another move.
DRDO has rebuilt a facility near Terminal 1, New Delhi with 500 beds, while the ESIC Hospital in Patna, which was converted to a COVID hospital, has 500 beds. Moreover, the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas has been given to the industry.
Yet another initiative of DRDO is supplying the SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation)-based supplemental oxygen delivery system created for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas for COVID patients as their conditions are similar.