The Western Railway handed over the first lot of Covid Care Centre to the Maharashtra government on Thursday at Nandurbar station. Interestingly they have built a tent on the platform and covered the roof of the coaches to prevent ingress of sunlight and reduce heat. This however has not gone down well with the railway unions who have demanded that these Covid Care Coaches be provided to the employees here in Mumbai and have written a letter for the same.
This will be for the first time in Maharashtra that the Covid Care coaches will be used by them provided by the Railways. “We have provided 21 of these Covid Care Coaches in Nandurbar and placed the train at the station as demanded by the state government,” said Alok Kansal, General Manager, Western Railway.
These coaches have heap of hay sticking out of the windows to prevent heat from entering, there is water cooler for which a common water pipeline has been provided for supply and connected with a tank above inter-connecting all 21 coaches. This train has been stabled next to the platform for easy access and there is oxygen provided to each bed. As of Thursday, patients had not come in to use these coaches.
“We have also built a tent covering the roof of the coaches. With these arrangements, the temperature inside these coaches will be 6-8 degrees lesser than outside thus providing ambience and comfort to patients. Each coach can attend 6-7 patients depending on the need,” said a railway official on condition of anonymity.
The second wave of Covid has led to a shortage of beds across the state and city, and until now the Covid Care Coaches built by the Indian Railways were lying unused. There are well over 450 coaches with oxygen that can cater to 11,000 plus patients. In view of the pandemic, the Indian Railways had converted 892 coaches on Central and Western Railways into Covid Care Centers.
The railway unions are stating that with the increasing cases of Covid-19 within the rail employees, the idle Covid Care coaches can come in use for them. “These Covid Care coaches can come in handy to accommodate infected patients and save valuable lives. Railway hospitals are already full and there is no space,” said a member of the railway union.
Earlier this week, the Jagjivan Ram Hospital issued a note that there is an acute shortage of Covid beds. The hospital is running 150 Covid beds including 10 beds in ICU. The note reads ‘Due to surge in Covid cases, there is an acute shortage of Covid beds and it is difficult to accommodate Covid patients beyond the capacity as it leads to strain on the availability of anti-Covid drugs’.
They have now started a helpdesk with a mobile number and patients should be referred to JRH only after calling this number. The name of the patient and doctor referred will be maintained in a register and they shall be called once a bed is available. The railway administration claims that their employees can go to other private hospitals and jumbo facilities.
For almost a year, the railway authorities simply parked these coaches in railway sidings or also reconverted into regular Sleeper coaches after Railway Board directed them to, last year. The Central Railway converted 90 percent of our coaches into regular Sleeper ones. The CR had set up 482 Covid Care Coaches at a cost of Rs 3.8 crore and now only 48 CCC remains with them after others were refurbished into regular coaches. The WR authorities created 410 CCC of which at least 128 of them are for Mumbai.