In a bid to address the problem of bed crunch in hospitals amid the rising COVID-19 cases, Indian Railways have started to deploy isolation coaches at various places for the treatment of covid-19 patients. The isolation coaches, which were deployed last year in only some states as COVID care centres, are now being put to use again.
These modified coaches for coronavirus patients have been divided into eight bays or ‘cabins’ with each having 16 beds. Every coach has three toilets — one western and two Indian style — and a bathroom with hand showers, buckets, mugs and bathroom stools.
The coaches also have mosquito nets, bio-toilets, power sockets and oxygen cylinders. Space has been created in these coaches to hold IV fluid bottles, extra bottle holders and clamps have been provided to hang them.
Ministry of Railways in a statement said,” As the country is battling the scourge of the current second wave of Covid, the Ministry of Railways is deploying a no-holds-barred approach by re-mobilising its initiative of Covid Care Isolation Coaches, already devised during the initial wave of Covid 19 with add-on conveniences.”
As a measure of preparedness, Covid Care coaches have been readied to serve as additional health care facility for isolation of Covid patients with mild symptoms. These coaches have now been additionally fitted with conveniences viz. coolers, jute-mats to cater to the current hot weather conditions.
In this regard, the State Govts have been advised on the Modalities& Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in place and the availability of Covid care coaches. Nearly 4000 Covid Care Coaches with 64000 beds, have positioned at various railway stations in the country, some of which have already served the isolation needs of patients in the first wave of Covid. The position of isolation coaches in the high- covid-afflicted zones are as under:
In Delhi, 50 coaches (with 800 beds) are deployed at Shakurbasti station (4 patients are currently admitted & 25 coaches (with 400 beds) are made available at Anand Vihar Terminal. At Nandurbar (Maharashtra), 21 coaches (with 378 beds) are positioned and currently 55 patients are admitted at this facility. At Bhopal station, 20 coaches have been positioned. 50 Coaches have been readied for deployment in Punjab and 20 coaches positioned for deployment in Jabalpur.
On-demand of state governments, these isolation centres will cater to needs of patients with mild and moderate symptoms (as directed to these facilities by State Health Authorities). The Railways takes all efforts to provide catering arrangements to these patients and maintain hygiene in these coaches. The State Governments’ utilisation of the isolation coaches will be made available through updates from time to time.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines, the responsibility of maintaining the coaches will be shared by the railways and the state government.
The national transporter will be responsible for the basic infrastructure and maintenance of the premises like cleaning and sanitisation of platforms, providing housekeeping materials like linen and blankets, management of bio-toilets, power and electric supply arrangements, watering, communication facilities and signage and marking of different areas. It will also provide catering and oxygen cylinders in the coaches. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) will provide security at station premises and the platform area where the coaches have been placed. The district administration will be responsible for refilling oxygen cylinders, waste disposal, catering, doctors and paramedical staff, ambulance and overall supervision. These railway coaches can be used for very mild cases that can be clinically assigned to COVID care centres, the guidelines state