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Polyclinics for defence veterans get more medical staff so they can run 24×7 amid Covid surge

Defence ministry has sanctioned additional staff, including a medical officer, a nursing assistant & a pharmacist, for 51 'high pressure' ECHS polyclinics for 3 months.

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New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence has sanctioned additional contractual medical staff at 51 “high pressure” Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) polyclinics for three months.

The new staff — including a medical officer, a nursing assistant and a pharmacist, among others — will be over and above the authorised staff strength at the polyclinics, the defence ministry said in a tweet.

The idea is to ensure that these polyclinics are operational round the clock for ECHS beneficiaries requiring urgent medical attention, particularly in the wake of the additional burden they are facing during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, defence sources told ThePrint.

Most of the identified polyclinics are located in metros which are densely populated. There are over 400 ECHS polyclinics operating across India.

Senior defence officials told ThePrint the decision was taken Monday.

The move is part of a fresh set of efforts initiated by the government and the armed forces for the veterans. The sources said it possibly stems from the concerns that a large number of the veterans were not being able to avail the services of these polyclinics and other military hospitals due to a surge in Covid-positive patients seeking treatment there.

“The move was initiated in the wake of the burgeoning Covid-19 positive cases to ensure that ECHS polyclinics are equipped well beyond their usual timings to attend to serious and emergency cases requiring urgent medical attention,” a defence source said.

The source said while most patients with mild symptoms have been advised home quarantine, there are cases that require continuous monitoring.

“Thus the need for additional staff in polyclinics to provide urgent medical attention to patients, particularly in the night hours,” said a services officer.

Also read: Army sets up cell to ensure ‘decent last rites’ for veterans, dependents succumbing to Covid

Efforts for armed forces veterans

The ECHS provides allopathic and AYUSH medicare to ex-servicemen pensioners and their dependents through a network of polyclinics, service medical facilities, civil empanelled or government hospitals and specified government AYUSH hospitals across India.

The scheme has been structured on the lines of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) to ensure cashless transactions for the patients. It is financed by the central government.

Last week, Southern Army Commander Lieutenant General J.S. Nain wrote to veterans, stating that serving and retired personnel would be provided the same medical treatment and facilities amid the spiralling coronavirus positive cases.

Recently, Western Army Commander Lt. Gen. R.P. Singh also assured armed forces veterans and their families of medical care and other requisite assistance, stating that all military hospitals will be accepting ECHS beneficiaries and all ECHS polyclinics and ex-servicemen cells will proactively deal with Covid cases among veterans and their families.

Earlier, ECHS beneficiaries were told to explore telehealth facilities at the triservice teleconsultation service of the defence ministry at to avoid a risk of contracting the virus.

Moreover, a sanction for purchase of prescribed medicines to ECHS beneficiaries from any available pharmacy has been accorded, for which they can claim reimbursements upto 31 July 2021. This will prevent crowding at polyclinics.

The Army has also set up a cell to ensure ‘decent last rites’ for veterans, dependents who are succumbing to Covid-19.

Also read: Army, Navy, Air Force seek emergency financial powers for 3 months to tackle Covid crisis

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