Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: In order to augment capacities for isolation of both suspect and confirmed COVID-19 cases amid the steep rise of SARS-nCoV infection, the Indian Railways is all set to provide healthcare facilities of COVID Care Centres in special train coaches. Under the initiative, the Railways has announced to provide Covid care at two stations.

As per a directive of the Health Ministry, two railway stations- Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road have been identified where railways' isolation coaches will be used as 'COVID Care Centres' for effective management of suspected or confirmed patients categorised as mild or very mild cases.

Though the Ministry has identified seven other stations- Rourkela, Jharsuguda, Koraput, Rayagada, Kantabanji, Titlgarh and Sambalpur, these stations will be used as COVID Care Centres if the State government requests and provides necessary health staff to the railways.

As per official sources, the Centre has identified 215 railway stations in 23 States and Union Territories for the deployment of railways' isolation coaches which will be used as 'COVID Care Centres' for suspected or confirmed patients categorised as mild or very mild cases.

Out of the total 215 stations, Railways has decided to provide healthcare facilities in 85 stations while similar isolation and treatment facilities in trains will be extended to 130 stations upon request and grant of health staff by concerned State governments.

At present, 2500 doctors and over 35,000 paramedics have been deployed by the Railways to meet the COVID-19 challenge in the country.

“Ministry of Railways has converted its 5231 coaches as COVID Care Centres. The coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to COVID Care Centres as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Department. 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 Railways said in a statement.

In cases of deterioration of the symptoms or clinical conditions, they would be referred to a designated centre or hospital for further management, the document said.

Separate coaches for suspects and confirmed cases should be ensured to avoid cross-infection.

The coaches will be spread across all major hotspots in India and cover both the big cities as well as rural, far-off places. The list includes districts currently in the 'green' zones as well as a large number of 'orange' zones. The trains will be deployed at railway stations and will be attached to the nearest COVID hospitals, official sources said.

The railway stations identified in the list include ones in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and all major cities in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.

The most number of stations are in Maharashtra (21) followed by Uttar Pradesh (27), West Bengal (18), Bihar (15), Madhya Pradesh(14) and Assam (13).

The Railways will provide food, linen and oxygen facilities in the coaches.

Wherever the train is stationed, the rolling stock department of Railways shall make arrangements for watering of coaches regularly, any repairs required in coaches, and also for the replenishment of chlorine tablets at the bio-toilet discharge and wherever required, catering arrangements shall be made by IRCTC of the commercial department.

"The Railway Protection Force will ensure suitable security to the coaches, patients and staff working there. Proper signages shall be placed outside railway stations, platforms and near location of coaches to guide authorities and patients to the coaches in a way that they are separate from the general public using the railway facilities," according to the SOPs.