Responding to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s plea for help in the war-like Covid situation, the Western Command of the Indian Army on Monday extended all possible help, including medical staff and medically trained combatants, to Punjab to meet the exigent shortage in hospital, along with support in reviving the state’s old oxygen plants that are currently lying defunct.
Lt Gen R.P. Singh, AVSM, VSM, GOC-in-C, Western Command, at a virtual meeting of the Chief Minister with senior command officials, also offered to provide staff to run the 100-bed Covid facility proposed to be set up in the building loaned to the state government by the CSIR for the purpose.
The Chief Minister later said at another review meeting with top officials of the state government and medical experts that the government was also approaching the Union Home Ministry to provide manpower and ICU beds through the Border Security Force (BSF).
Technical and specialist cover will be provided by the Command Centre, Lt Gen Singh told the Chief Minister, adding that 15 trained nurses had already been sent to Patiala to support the civic staff.
Further, experts will be sent to visit the defunct oxygen plants at existing industrial units to assess their status and extend whatever support needed for their restoration.
Though their resources were stressed on account of requirements also from other states, including Delhi, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, the army officials said they will extend all possible help to Punjab to tackle the situation, which the Chief Minister said was critical, with Ludhiana alone reporting 1,300 plus cases and oxygen allocation from the Centre currently at only 105 tonnes as against the demand of 300 tonnes daily.
Of the 105 tonnes, the state was actually getting only 85 tonnes as the rest was being diverted to PGI Chandigarh.
The Chief Minister said later at the internal review meeting that the state government was making all efforts to secure medical oxygen to supplement its depleting stocks.
The meeting was informed by Secretary Industries, Alok Shekhar, that Jalandhar and Amritsar had been facing crisis situation on the oxygen front for the past few days, which the state had somehow handled through judicious management.
While he was not proposing lockdown, which leads to exodus and economic woes, the Chief Minister made it clear that the other stringent steps were being taken to manage the escalating crisis.
Punjab on Sunday reported over 7,000 cases, with the situation expected to worsen, especially in south Punjab amid the rising number of cases in neighbouring states, he pointed out.
The Chief Minister directed the Health Department to follow up with the Centre for vaccine supplies as the state presently had only 1.76 lakh Covishield and 22,000 Covaxin doses in stock.
Reacting to reports of threats of strike by certain organisations of health and medical workers, the Chief Minister made it clear that threats will be met with dismissal “as we cannot tolerate this kind of nonsense in a war-like situation.”
Health Secretary Hussan Lal disclosed that in response to directives from the Chief Minister, 2,000 beds would be added to strengthen the L2 and L3 bed capacity in government and private hospitals.
While 900 beds would be added to Government Medical Colleges in Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot (Jalalabad), 542 would be added to Private Medical Colleges. The District Hospitals will get another 300 L2 beds, while 250 beds would be placed at a temporary hospital near the Bathinda refinery.