(This was originally posted in The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)
The Directorate General of the Armed Forces Medical Services (DG, AFMS) has mooted a proposal to hire around 400 medical veterans of the service to aid with the handling of the Covid-19 wave raging across the country.
The former medical officers will be hired on a contract basis for a year and will be expected to pitch in with their expertise on advising, counselling and treating patients, ThePrint has learnt.
Defence sources told ThePrint that the proposal is under active consideration of the defence ministry and a decision is expected soon.
If approved, the measure will provide some relief to the military medical staff, who have been stretched thin due to the burgeoning Covid cases and states looking to them for personnel and infrastructure.
The proposal talks about recruiting retired officers of the AFMS and short service commission medical officers for a period of about a year, the sources added.
“There are plans to hire around 400 such medically sound officers who retired in the last four to five years on a contract basis,” a defence source said. This will also include those medical officers who resigned or took premature retirement during this period.
The source added that their monthly remuneration would be based on the last salary they drew from the government and other specialisations.
The new proposal comes days after the DG AFMS sent out an appeal to the veteran officers of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) to aid in the fight against Covid.
In a letter last week, the DG AFMS had asked veteran AFMS officers to register themselves on the defence ministry’s e-Sehat portal where they can provide their advice, guidance, and counseling to needy patients through teleconsultation.
Prior to that, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that all armed forces medical personnel who had retired or taken premature retirement in the last two years would be recalled to serve in Covid-19 facilities near their residences.
Overstretched military medical staff
The Ministry of Defence has allowed 50 AFMS hospitals — including 42 Army, five Air Force, and three Navy hospitals (dedicated and mixed Covid hospitals) — in which civilians could get treated subject to referral by the local health authority after ascertaining bed availability.
As reported by ThePrint, the military’s medical staff is stretched thin due to the growing demands from states to create medical infrastructure and provide army doctors, nurses, and paramedics for them.
Several military doctors, paramedics and nursing staff have been put on duty in different Covid care facilities set up across the country, including the 500-bed Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid Hospital near the New Delhi Airport, Dhanvantri Covid Care Hospital in Ahmedabad and the 500-bed Atal Bihari Vajpayee hospital in Lucknow among others.
Last week, the defence ministry invoked Schedule 8.1 of Delegation of Financial Powers to Defence Services (DFPDS-2016), which deals with the grant of emergency financial powers to the Armed Forces Medical Service (AFMS) upto 30 September 2021.
Schedule 8.1 of DFPDS-2016 provides for full financial powers to the DG, AFMS to procure medical items, materials and stores.
Additionally, the three services have also been granted emergency financial powers from the defence ministry to expedite critical procurement needed to build additional infrastructure to tackle the growing burden of the coronavirus pandemic.