Army, Navy, Air Force pitch in with doctors, medical aid, oxygen as India’s Covid burden grows

Army, Navy, Air Force pitch in with doctors, medical aid, oxygen as India’s Covid burden grows

Infrastructure in military hospitals are being ramped to handle the rising Covid cases while doctors & medical staff of the forces have been deployed in cities where cases have surged.

The Army transporting oxygen-laden trucks | Twitter/@adgpi

The Army transporting oxygen-laden trucks | Twitter/@adgpi

New Delhi: The Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force have pitched in resources to help the country as it continues to grapple with a massive Covid-19 crisis. 

This includes importing oxygen generation plants and containers from Germany to cater to the shortage, military hospitals’ infrastructure being ramped up to handle the mounting cases, doctors and medical staff of the forces being deployed to cities reporting a surge in cases and oxygen cylinders and essential medicines being transported to Delhi, which is reeling under a massive shortage of these essential items.

The efforts come days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asked the armed forces to leverage their resources to help the civil administration fight the fresh Covid-19 wave.

Amid this, sources said over 97 per cent of the armed forces have got the first dose of the vaccination and about 76 per cent of them have received the second dose. This includes personnel of the Border Roads Organisation and the Indian Coast Guard.

In the Army alone, 99 per cent have received the first vaccine dose and 82 per cent have received both the doses.

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Efforts by Army, IAF

Sources told ThePrint that with a surge in Covid cases, concurrent efforts have been made to enhance capacity at the Base Hospital, Delhi (BHDC). 

The 500-bed BHDC has been converted into an exclusive Covid care hospital from Thursday to handle rising cases. All other cases of medical emergencies are being treated at the Army R R hospital.

“As on date, there are 258 oxygenated beds which are fully occupied. The number of these oxygenated beds has been greatly enhanced in the last few days,” a source said.

“Oxygenated bed availability is dynamic depending on discharge of patients and reporting of new patients.”

Defence sources said concerted efforts are being made to increase the oxygenated beds and the capacity enhancement should materialise in a few days.

Nearly 400-plus Covid positive cases with mild symptoms are in home isolation, who otherwise would have been admitted in BHDC, they added. 

Moreover, 23 mobile oxygen generation plants are being airlifted from Germany to be deployed in AFMS hospitals catering to the Covid patients. These oxygen-generating plants are expected to reach within a week.

Sources said oxygen concentrators are also being procured.

The IAF Thursday also airlifted Covid-19 testing set-up load to Leh for Ladakh.

Two C-17 aircraft airlifted two empty Linde cryogenic oxygen containers and one IL 76 airlifted one empty Inox container to Panagarh from Hindon air base, the IAF said.

As reported by ThePrint, 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 management.

Earlier, based on a formal request by Indian Railways, the Army had made available its critical rolling stock for transportation of oxygen-laden trucks to meet the requirements of the Covid hospitals across the country. 

Sources said service medical staff have been provided to SVBP Hospital in Delhi, ESI Covid Hospital in Patna, and the Gujarat University Convention Center that has been turned into a Covid Hospital in Ahmedabad.

A senior service officer said with the public and private health infrastructure of the country under stress, the defence services are making concerted efforts to enhance the capacities with an overburdened medical personnel. 

The Indian Air Force (IAF), too, has been airlifting personnel, oxygen cylinders, regulators, trolleys and essential medicines. The IAF is moving doctors and nursing staff from Kochi, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru to the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) Covid hospital at Delhi.

It is also transporting oxygen containers of DRDO from Bengaluru to Covid centres at Delhi.

As reported by ThePrint, last year, the IAF’s transport fleet flew hundreds of sorties to carry hundreds of tonnes of medicine, ration and other essential supplies to various parts of the country. The IAF’s primary transport chopper, the MI-17 V5s, were put into action to transport swab samples for testing.

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Navy assessing Covid beds

Sources told ThePrint that the Navy is in the process of assessing the number of Covid beds across naval hospitals that could be made available to the civil population, aside from serving personnel and veterans.  

“The Navy is also providing doctors and medical staff in aid to civil authorities,” a source said. “Medical staff have been deployed at Patna, Delhi and Muzaffarpur already. They will also be deployed in other cities as and when required.”   

The Navy is also ready to transport oxygen and Covid-19 supplies to island territories and other areas as and when needed, sources said.

When the pandemic broke out last year, the services played a critical role in setting up quarantine centres to accommodate suspected Covid patients. 

Both the IAF and the Navy had been instrumental in ferrying back Indians stuck in several countries due to the pandemic.  

The DRDO is also working on setting up three Covid facilities in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, aside from the one recently made operational in Delhi.

The state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is also setting up two Covid facilities — in UP’s Lucknow and Nashik in Maharashtra. HAL has already constructed a facility for the Karnataka government in Bengaluru.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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