New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the functioning of Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) and their assistance to civilian authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19. The review meeting attended by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Director General AFMS Lt Gen Anup Banerji, Director General (Organisation & Personnel) AFMS Lt General A K Hooda, Director General Medical Services (Navy) Surgeon Vice Admiral M V Singh and Director General Medical Services (Air) Air Marshal M S Butola took place in the capital on Friday.
It is important to note here that AFMS, on a request received from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has created quarantine facilities for civilians and are currently functional at six stations for civilian evacuees from Italy, Iran, China, Malaysia and Japan. Standby quarantine facilities have also been created at other stations. Starting February 01 these facilities have housed 1,738 individuals. The secretary and officers briefed the minister about various actions taken in terms of issuing advisories to Armed Forces personnel, providing assistance to civilian authorities in respect of quarantine facilities, provisioning of hospitals and healthcare in the prevailing situation.
Six viral testing labs have already been established with the help of ICMR and are functional at various AFMS hospitals. Lt Gen Anup Banerjee, DG Armed Forces Medical Services has briefed that following emergency financial powers granted by Raksha Mantri to DGs MS and further down the hierarchy, procurement of essential health equipment such as face masks, sanitisers, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), ventilators, etc is going on smoothly and at a fast pace. Army Medical Corps is currently also providing medical cover to the quarantine camp at Narela, New Delhi where a team of six medical officers and 18 paramedical staff have been deployed.
To cater for isolation and treatment (Including ICU based care) for COVID-19 cases, orders notifying 50 AFMS hospitals as dedicated COVID hospitals and mixed COVID hospitals have been issued. These hospitals have a combined bed capacity of 9,038 patients. Civilian COVID-19 cases would also be admitted in these hospitals as a surge capacity to augment the state healthcare facilities.
Training activities have been suspended at AMC Centre & College, Lucknow and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) Pune. Approximately 650 medical officers undergoing post-graduate training at AFMC will be reverted back to units for the provision of medical cover depending on the evolving situation. In addition, 100 medical officers from recruiting organisations are being detailed to work in hospitals where COVID wards are being established.
A list of retired AMC officers and paramedical staff has been readied who may be requested to volunteer for working in AFMS hospitals at their current home stations in case the need arises. Forty-three officers and 990 paramedics have volunteered till date.
A medical team of 15 members have been sent to Kuwait along with a PCR machine and diagnostic kits to help the Government of Kuwait in developing the strategy for handling COVID.
While appreciating various measures initiated by the Armed Forces Medical Services, Rajnath Singh directed them to extend all possible assistance to civil authorities to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.