(This was originally posted in India Today by Abhishek Bhalla)
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was informed in a meeting that armed forces will rope in 600 retired doctors and four oxygen plants set by DRDO will be available in Delhi hospitals by next week. The review meeting was held on Saturday with top defence ministry officials giving an update on Covid relief measures taken up by the armed forces and other wings of the ministry.
The DRDO Chairman said, the first four out of 380 Oxygen PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) plants will be deployed in hospitals in New Delhi by next week, a defence ministry statement said. The Oxygen plant is designed for a capacity of 1,000 litres per minute and the system caters for 190 patients at a flow rate of 5 litres per minute and can charge 195 cylinders per day. The Navy and the Air Force have also supplied nearly 500 portable oxygen cylinders from their stores to various civilian hospitals.
A telemedicine service, to be operated by health veterans, will begin soon to provide consultation to those patients who remain at home, the minister was told. Singh was also briefed about the Indian Navy’s deployment of 200 Battle Field Nursing Assistants to assist in various hospitals. The National Cadet Corps (NCC) has deployed 300 cadets and staff at various locations in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Haryana.
Indian Army has made available more than 720 beds for civilians in various states. The defence minister gave instructions to the Army for sharing details with local administration at the state and district levels. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat suggested that local military commands have to be actively engaged in assisting the civil administration.
The minister was also updated about a 500-bed hospital being set up DRDO in Lucknow that will start functioning in the next 2-3 days. Another hospital is also being set up in Varanasi which is scheduled to be completed by May 5. Singh appreciated the logistics support being provided by the Armed Forces in transporting oxygen containers from abroad as well as within the country between places of consumption and production.
While transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out several sorties from Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai and within the country, Indian Navy dispatched four ships two to the Middle East and two to South East Asia to transport filled oxygen containers to India, defence ministry said.
As on May 1, 2021, IAF carried out 28 sorties from abroad, airlifting 47 oxygen containers with 830 MT of capacity, while from within the country, it carried out 158 sorties, airlifting 109 containers with 2,271 MT capacity. Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) are procuring 28 oxygen plants and other medical equipment worth Rs 40 crore for supplying to various hospitals in states.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has set up a 250-bed hospital in Bengaluru. Another 250-bed hospital is being set up in Lucknow. Singh reiterated that the Armed Forces should provide all necessary assistance to a civilian administration and asked the officials of the Ministry of Defence and the three Services to closely monitor the progress of various initiatives, the defence ministry added.