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What’s DGAFMS, Indian military’s medical wing leading the fight against Covid

The Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Service reports to the Department of Defence and not to the Department of Military Affairs or the CDS.

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New Delhi: As the country fights a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the armed forces have come to the aid of the civil authorities, not just in terms of logistics support such as transport and setting up field hospitals, but by also providing doctors, nurses and paramedics.

While the Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Service (DGAFMS) has been quietly leading the military’s war against Covid, the recent controversy surrounding the transfer of the Commandant of the Army Base Hospital in Delhi has put it in the spotlight.

The decision to transfer the Base Hospital chief surprised many. However, sources in the government as well as the defence establishment told ThePrint that the transfer was “purely administrative” in nature keeping in mind the needs of a crisis situation that was evolving every day.

Amid the decision to transfer the Base Hospital’s Commandant in the middle of the Covid crisis, here’s a look at the history and organisational structure of the DGAFMS.

The history of DGAFMS

It was in March 1947 that the “Armed Forces Medical Services and Research Integration Committee”, headed by Dr B.C. Roy, was set up by the Indian government to consider the integration of the three medical services and medical research in the three services.

The Committee recommended that there should be three medical branches of the services — Army, Navy and Air Force. It also recommended that there should be a Supreme Controller of all the three medical services — Director General of the Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) — who would be the advisor to the Supreme Commander (President) or the Defence Minister with regard to the medical needs of the military.

The DGAFMS was meant to be the administrative head of the Armed Forces Medical Services and remains so.

Based on the recommendation of the Committee, the government in 1948 integrated the medical services of the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Air Force into the Armed Forces Medical Service (AFMS). It also placed the AFMS under the Director General Armed Forces Medical Services with a three star rank appointment.

It also laid down the role and character of responsibilities of DGAFMS.

The DGAFMS was made directly responsible to the Defence Ministry for overall medical policy matters so far as they relate to the Armed Forces.

It was also said that the heads of medical services of the Army, Navy and Air Force will be responsible for functioning of these services under the respective Service Chiefs in accordance with any general policy directions that may be given by the DGAFMS.

The charter has since been updated from time to time.

Also read: States seek Army help to fight Covid but ‘overstretched’ forces have limited doctors to spare

Organisational structure and recruitment

Contrary to popular perception, the DGAFMS does not report to the Chief of Defence Staff or the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) but the Department of Defence headed by the Defence Secretary.

When the work division was carried out in 2020 between the Department of Defence and the newly created DMA, the Medical Directorate remained with the former.

The DGAFMS is held by an officer in the rank of Lt Gen or equivalent and is the head of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS).

The Director Generals of Medical Services of the Army, Navy and Air Force are the medical advisors to their respective Chief of Staff and come under the DGAFMS.

The AFMS consists of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) including AMC (NT), Army Dental Corps (AD Corps) and Military Nursing Service (MNS).

110 medical cadets, including 21 female cadets, of the 55th (C3) batch of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) were commissioned as medical officers into the AFMS Saturday.

The cadets were commissioned by Commandant, AFMC Lt Gen Nardeep Naithani during a brief ceremony.

Ninety-four cadets were commissioned into the Army, 10 in the Indian Air Force and six in the Indian Navy, a statement by the Defence Ministry said.

Also read: These soldiers are serving 24×7 to cremate veterans, dependents succumbing to Covid


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