A DRDO erected 500 bed Sardar Vallabhai Patel Hospital in New Delhi

Medical facilities of DPSUs, OFB to treat civilian COVID-19 patients: Rajnath after review meet

New Delhi: All health facilities of defence public sector undertakings and the Ordnance Factory Board have been allowed to provide health services to civilian population requiring treatment for COVID-19, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday.

Singh also said that the armed forces and the defence ministry will leave no stone unturned in providing all possible assistance to the civil administrations in dealing with the pandemic.

The defence minister's comments came after he reviewed efforts by the three services and various other wings of his ministry in contributing to India's fight against a fast-spreading second wave of COVID-19.

Officials said several Indian Navy ships were put on standby for any assistance in moving oxygen tankers in view of a shortage of medical oxygen for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Singh carried out the review at a virtual meeting attended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and DRDO chairman G Satheesh Reddy, among others.

"Reviewed the efforts of Ministry of Defence and the three Services to fight against the current wave of COVID Pandemic through video conferencing facility. The Armed Forces and MoD will leave no stone unturned in providing all possible assistance to the civilian administration," he tweeted.

He said the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is adding another 250 beds by Saturday evening at its Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Covid Hospital near the Delhi airport. The addition will take the total number of beds at the facility to 500.

The defence minister said a 1,000-bed hospital, set up by the DRDO, has become operational in Gujarat.

India is struggling with the second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals in several states are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.

Singh said work is in full swing to establish a COVID-19 treatment facility in Lucknow that would become operational in the next five-six days, adding the hospitals would be run by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) in coordination with the Uttar Pradesh government.

"All health facilities of Defence PSUs & Ordnance Factory Board have been allowed to provide health services to local COVID-19 affected civilian population. The MoD officials and the three Services are closely monitoring the progress of various initiatives taken by the Ministry," Singh said in another tweet.

The three services as well as other wings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been extending support to various state governments and union territories in dealing with the massive spike in coronavirus cases.

Since Friday, the Indian Air Force airlifted empty oxygen tankers and containers to various filling stations across the country to speed up the distribution of the much-needed medical oxygen.

The IAF has also been transporting essential medicines as well as equipment required by the designated COVID hospitals in various parts of the country.

On Saturday, one C-17 transport aircraft of the IAF picked up from Singapore four cryogenic containers for storage of liquid oxygen to boost oxygen supply in the country, officials said.

In the meeting, the defence minister was informed that the IAF transported two empty oxygen container trucks from Pune to Jamnagar and another two empty oxygen containers from Jodhpur to Jamnagar.

One Chinook helicopter airlifted medical equipment from Jammu to Leh.