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Military hospitals could now treat civilians as Rajnath seeks armed forces’ aid in Covid fight

Hospitals run by all 63 Cantonment Boards also asked to accommodate Cantt residents and those from outside approaching them for treatment.

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New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has asked the armed forces to leverage whatever they can from their resources and help the civil administration fight the fresh Covid-19 wave that has brought the country’s health system under severe stress, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said the minister met Chief of the Army Staff Gen. M.M. Naravane and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar Monday and discussed various initiatives that could be taken by the armed forces, besides the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and state-run defence public sector undertakings.

According to one of the decisions taken during the meeting, the sources said, the top Army officer in a state capital would call on the chief minister and offer to take in civilians at the hospitals run by the force, wherever possible.

“The military hospitals are for the armed forces. There are still some beds that could cater to the civilians in this mega crisis situation. The force will decide how many civilians can be taken in at their Covid facilities,” a source said.

The top officers will also seek to know what else the state government is expecting and how they can be of any help if possible.

Also, all the 63 Cantonment Boards in the country have been told that hospitals run by them have to accommodate Cantonment residents and those from outside approaching them for treatment, in coordination with district authorities or nodal officers for Covid.

Singh also undertook another review meeting Tuesday, in which it was decided that retired military medical personnel will be contacted to pitch in and help the civil administration.

Besides the defence secretary and the Army chief, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat; Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh; Director General of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surg Vice Admiral Rajat Datta; Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, and Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G. Satheesh Reddy and other senior civil and military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Also read: ‘No bed, no ICU, everything was full’: Hospital trauma returns to Maharashtra as cases climb

Demand for more makeshift hospitals

It is learnt that various state governments have approached the Ministry of Defence asking for makeshift hospitals to be set up on the lines of how the DRDO has done it in the national capital.

ThePrint had reported that the DRDO and state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are in the process of setting up more such hospitals in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra.

“This is not an easy task. There is a requirement of land, infrastructure and money besides medical staff to man these hospitals. The defence is trying to create more beds for those patients who need critical intensive care. Based on requests, the DRDO may set up more makeshift facilities,” another source said.

“The whole idea is to leverage the resources available so that the defence establishment can work along with the civilian establishment to counter this challenge,” said one of the sources cited above.

Incidentally, former Army chief Gen. V.P. Malik had in a tweet on 18 April said the nation was at war as more Indians have died in 24 hours than the entire Kargil battle.

Former Northern Army commander Lt Gen. (Retd) D.S. Hooda said the nation was in a “full blown” crisis and suggested some measures.

Retired military medical personnel to pitch in

Singh was also informed by DRDO chief Dr G. Satheesh Reddy that based on the on-board oxygen generation technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plant technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. 

Dr Reddy informed that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. 

He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid-19 patients as their conditions become similar. 

The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO, a statement by the Defence Ministry said. 

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)

Also read: 80% of military, central security forces have got first shot, but police in top Covid states lag


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