As India battels a calamitous second wave of COVID-19, the armed forces are taking a series of measures like recalling doctors and other medical staff from key bases to help civilian authorities deal with the sudden surge in coronavirus infections.
Medical officers posted with various recruiting offices, National Cadet Corps and on staff appointments are also being recalled for their deployment in areas witnessing high caseloads, officials said.
In another move to increase the availability of doctors, the defence ministry on April 23 announced giving extension till December 31 to all the Short Service Commissioned doctors in Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) who were due for retirement.
“This will augment the strength of AFMS by 238 more doctors,” the ministry said.
The officials said courses of all doctors have been cancelled and steps are being taken to ensure that services of military doctors are not wasted on administrative duties or for overseeing the quarantine centres.
These doctors are being deployed for providing medical support in dealing with the surging cases of the COVID-19.
Medical officers from frontline formation being recalled
The officials said medical officers from the frontline formations are being recalled for their deployment in various COVID-19 hospitals and medical facilities.
The officials said the number of oxygenated beds available with the AFMS was 1,821 on April 19 which has been bolstered to 4,220 on April 30, adding efforts are also underway to increase this bed strength further.
“As the nation faces one of the worst health care crises in human history, the Indian Armed Forces are throwing in their might to reach out and help the citizens in these challenging times. Towards this aim, a number of hospitals are being set up across the country,” said a senior official.
The officials said the armed forces have set up hospitals at multiple locations and a large number of men and women of the military have left the comfort of their homes and moved to these hospitals.
Armed forces set up 500-bed Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid Hospital near the airport
In Delhi, the armed forces have set up the 500-bed Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid Hospital near the airport. Around 122 medical officers, 48 nursing officers and 120 paramedical staff from the Army, Navy and Air Force are deployed at the facility.
The Dhanvantri Covid Care Hospital at Ahmedabad, inaugurated Home Minister Amit Shah, was the second hospital that was made functional with the help of Armed Forces Medical Services. Another hospital is now working round the clock at Patna in Bihar.
Similar facilities are being made functional in the very near future at Lucknow and Varanasi, the officials said.
Armed Forces Dhanvantri Covid Care Hospital at Ahmedabad working with support from state machinery
The Armed Forces Dhanvantri Covid Care Hospital at Ahmedabad is working with support from the state machinery and it is planned to be made a 900-bed facility.
The officials said more than 200 seriously ill patients, who have been infected by the deadly virus, are being treated at the hospital.
“The ICU in this hospital is almost ready and will start working in service of the critically ill patients soon. A contingent of about 70 health care personnel from the three Services have been moved from various parts of the Country and are deployed at the Ahmedabad hospital,” said an official.
The officials said post-graduate resident doctors have willingly volunteered to defer their critical post-graduate training and are providing their services to treat COVID-19 patients. The officials said COVID-19 hospitals are also being set up at Lucknow and Varanasi.
The armed forces have already earmarked a contingent of 33 doctors, 69 paramedical staff and 34 nursing staff for the hospital at Lucknow which is planned to be a 450-bed facility.
The hospital in Varanasi will have 750 beds and is being made functional in the next few days, they said.