Rajnath reviews COVID relief efforts of armed forces

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New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday reviewed efforts of the armed forces, defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in India's fight against a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to spread in rural areas.

The focus of Singh's review at a video conference was on setting up dedicated COVID hospitals in different states, the creation of additional beds in military hospitals, the establishment of oxygen plants and the augmentation of doctors and other health professionals to deal with the crisis, officials said.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said at the meeting that nearly 800 doctors have been mobilised through various measures to meet the shortage of health professionals, according to an official statement.

The defence ministry has initiated a number of steps to increase the availability of doctors, which included giving extension till December 31 to all short service commissioned doctors in the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) who were due for retirement.

The ministry also roped in retired military doctors to provide online consultations to civilian patients through a tele-medicine platform.

In the meeting, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said his force has completed 990 sorties both within the country and abroad in various missions to transport oxygen containers and other health equipment, the defence ministry said.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen MM Naravane assured that there is no let-up in the Army's efforts in the war against COVID-19.

He briefed the defence minister that military hospitals at identified locations have set aside beds for treatment of civilian COVID-19 patients and that capabilities of the Base hospital in New Delhi are being ramped up.

The Army Chief said additional oxygen plants, cylinders and concentrators are being procured to bolster medical infrastructure and oxygen supply at these hospitals, the ministry said Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh informed the defence minister regarding the logistic support being provided by Indian naval ships in transporting medical oxygen containers and other health equipment from abroad.

DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy said that the new hospitals set up at Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Ahmedabad and Patna were functional and providing services in treating COVID-19 patients. He said similar facilities are being established in Rishikesh and Haldwani in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Srinagar at the request of the civilian authorities.

The defence ministry said the DRDO has established five Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants (four in Delhi and one in Haryana) and work is in progress to set up 150-175 more such facilities by the end of this month.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat complimented the excellent coordination among the three services in providing assistance to the civilian administration whether in terms of logistic support or creation of additional health infrastructure.

He added that the Army has set up health facilities in far-flung and remote areas to aid the local civil administration.

Rajnath Singh said in the meeting that though COVID-19 cases are on a decline, all stakeholders are required to remain alert.

'He directed the three services and other organisations of MoD to continue with their regular work despite COVID-19 challenges,' the ministry said.

In responding to the crisis, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy have set up a number of hospitals in various states for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Last month, Singh granted emergency financial powers to the three services to allow formation commanders to establish and operate hospitals as well as quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients.

The emergency powers have been granted initially for a period of three months from May 1 to July 31 and are in addition to the similar powers delegated to the medical officers of the armed forces last week. PTI MPB ANB ANB

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