Indian Railways fights COVID-19 pandemic! Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways has dedicated more than 6,500 hospital beds, which is half the number of beds from its 125 railway hospitals, to COVID-19 patients across the country, according to an IE report. Out of these, one third of the beds will be fitted with ventilators, leading to 2,000 such beds. The Railway Board, headed by Chairman, Vinod Kumar Yadav, announced on March 30, 2020 that as many as 20,000 train coaches spread across all railway zones in the country, can be converted into isolation wards, to develop quarantine facilities for Coronavirus patients, or to place individuals showing symptoms of the infection. The Railway Board has issued orders to all zones that in the initial phase, 5,000 train coaches should be converted.
According to the report, Indian Railways has around 13,000 beds in its 125 railway hospitals across India, including in remote areas. Now, Indian Railways is in the process of deciding whether to dedicate around 60-70 strategically located railway hospitals completely for the COVID-19 patients or to keep some of the key hospitals in a dual mode, having dedicated entry points and exclusive wings and blocks for the Coronavirus patients
Following initiatives have been taken by Indian Railways in the fight against COVID-19:
Conversion of coaches to serve as quarantine/isolation facilities: Indian Railways is converting 5000 train coaches across the country to serve as quarantine/isolation facilities for 80000 beds for COVID-19.Action has been started by Zonal Railways on a war footing. Conversion of 3250 coaches has already been completed.
5000 beds earmarked for treatment of COVID patients: Around 5,000 beds in 17 dedicated hospitals and 33 hospital blocks in Railway Hospitals have been identified for treatment of COVID-19 patients. These hospitals and blocks are being made ready for this purpose.11,000 quarantine beds: 11,000 quarantine beds have been made available across the Indian Railways establishments to fight COVID-19.
Availability of medical equipment-Ventilators and PPEs: Availability of sufficient number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Ventilators etc. would be critical in fight against COVID-19. Action has been taken by Railway zones and production units to procure ventilators, PPEs and medical equipment to meet their needs to fight COVID-19. It may be noted that Railways has already started In-house production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is striving to produce around 1000 PPEs per day which may be upscaled further.
Railway Health Services offered to all Central Government Employees: Railway Health Services have been made available to all Central Government Employees across the country on showing their Identity cards at the Railway Hospitals/Health Centres.
The workshops and coaching depots of various railway zones have been manufacturing certain equipment such as beds, saline stands, face masks, sanitisers for the need of the hour. However, now, the Railway Board has asked the zones to explore ways for procuring around 2000 ventilators, which will need to be fitted with the hospital beds. Presently, only 100 ventilators are available with the railway network.
In this regard, authorities have decided to procure ventilators from external sources such as ventilator manufacturers and factories. Help and suggestions are also being sought from the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs. Apart from this, all railway units have been directed to initiate the mass production of PPE or personal protective equipment. The national transporter has also given the approval to the zonal heads for hiring more number of doctors, paramedical staff in order to control the COVID-19 crisis. Retired railway doctors can also be re-employed on a temporary basis to meet the higher demand for medical supervision.
Along with the real heroes of the country, Indian Railways are contributing on their part. And if these non living things can contribute towards the fight againt Covid-19, Why can’t We?
Compiled By: Prof. Divya D. Naik