The Indian Railways, which converted 5,231 coaches into isolation wards for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients has decided to send these coaches at 215 stations across the country as pandemic care centres to state authorities where the state governments have exhausted the facilities.
A senior railway ministry official said that these coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to the COVID-19 care centres as per guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday said that train coaches will be turned into coronavirus care centres and parked at 215 stations across the country as part of the preparation for a sudden spurt in COVID-19 cases in the country.
He further said that these coaches can be used in areas where state has exhausted the facilities and needs to augment capacities for isolation of both suspect and confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The official said that out of 215 stations, railways will provide healthcare facilities in 85 stations.
“In rest of 130 stations, states to requisition COVID-19 care coaches only if they are able to provide staff and essential medicines,” he said.
He said, railways has kept 158 stations ready with watering and charging facility and 57 stations with watering facility for these COVID-19 care centers.
The national transporter has identified railway stations in 23 states including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
These coaches are equipped as per medical advisories issued. An official released by railways in April had noted that these isolation coaches are being prepared only as a contingency and to supplement the efforts of the Ministry of Health in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apart from COVID-19 care centres, the national transporter will deploy more than 2,500 doctors and 35,000 paramedic staff to meet the Coronavirus challenge, the official said.
“Doctors and paramedics are being recruited on a temporary basis by various railway zones. Around 5,000 beds in 17 dedicated hospitals and 33 hospital blocks in railway hospitals identified for treatment of Coronavirus patients getting ready for any contingency.
The official said that as per guidelines of the Health Ministry, state governments would send the requisition to railways.
“Railways will make allocation of these coaches to the state or union territories. After allocation by railways, the train shall be placed, at required station with necessary infrastructure, and handed over to District Collector or Magistrate or one of their authorised persons,” he said.
The Railways will provide all the necessary items in each coach, including oxygen cylinders and take care of maintenance. catering arrangements will be done by IRCTC, and the Railway Police Force (RPF) will take care of the security aspect, he said. He said that the railways will take care of the watering, electricity, repairs, catering arrangements, security at the stations where it will be placed.