Railway mulls offering its coaches, cabins as isolation wards for COVID-19 patients
New Delhi, Mar 25: The Railways is contemplating offering its coaches and cabins as isolation wards for patients found positive for coronavirus, sources said Wednesday. The Indian Railways, which runs 13,523 trains daily, has suspended all passenger services till April 14.
Sources said the proposal to offer the empty coaches and cabins to be used as ICU's for such patients was discussed in a meeting of Railway Minister with Chairman Railway Board VK Yadav, General Managers of all zones and Divisional Railway Managers over video conferencing on Wednesday.
In the meeting it was discussed how railways' production units could be used to manufacture essential commodities for fighting the contagion like ventilators, beds, trolleys along with the proposal of using these coaches which are equipped with toilets as isolation wards, sources said.
Sources say the idea was mooted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his cabinet colleagues to look for innovative ways to boost its medical facilities in view of the virus spreading rapidly.
As per the 2011 Census, WHO estimated that India had only 0.7 beds per 1,000 people. While India has targeted to increase this to two beds, WHO mandates for at least 3 beds per 1,000 people in the country. Sources say these coaches and cabins could be used as hospitals on wheels with consultation rooms, medical store, ICU and pantry.
With the rail network spread across the country, sources say these hospitals could be set up anywhere where clusters of such infected patients are found but didnt have adequate facilities.
The source also said that to start with railways' production units could be put into action to make modifications to make the coaches ready to serve as medical units.
Railways also has a slew of Accident Relief Medical Equipment Vans (ARME) — or rail ambulances — which could be offered to the government. These vans are usually used to treat passengers in case of rail accidents.