The Southern Railway has decided to designate its Arakkonam hospital for treating COVID-19 patients. Apart from railway staff, employees of various Central government departments and their family members in Tamil Nadu and Kerala will be provided free treatment, said official sources.
The hospital, located at a secluded place within one km from Arakkonam Junction, is suitable for isolation and treatment. The hospital’s capacity is going to be temporarily augmented with 600 medical staff for a period of three months. This included 72 doctors, 120 nursing staff, 24 lab assistants, 24 radiographers, 120 attendants and 240 housekeeping assistants, revealed official documents.
“The walk-in-interview for these appointments will be conducted between April 15 and 17 at Egmore. Special trains will be operated for applicants to attend the interview, if passenger rail operations are not resumed after April 14,” added the officials.
“Considering the constraints in increasing beds, train coaches converted into isolation wards will be put into service to quarantine patients, if required. The coaches can be stationed at idle railway lines without any disruption to traffic,” officials concluded.
Coaches only for patients with mild symptoms
The Southern Railway on Thursday informed the High Court that only patients with mild symptoms and who do not require hospitalisation would be admitted to isolation wards in coaches. The response came after a plea against admitting patients to isolation in coaches. According to petitioner, the coaches will neither be clean nor suitable to set up medical infrastructure. The railways in its submission said the strategy was to decongest hospitals. The court reserved its orders.
8 patients can be accommodated in each coach. “The coaches also have space to accommodate paramedical staff. We are now using 15-year-old coaches for conversion to isolation wards,” a senior official said. In a worst case scenario, newer coaches may also be converted, sources hinted
Plan to tackle Heat in Isolation Coaches Dropped
As there have been several reports of train passengers dying of exhaustion and dehydration in peak summer season, officials earlier planned to cover all the walls and roof of coaches with coir mats. However, the plan was dropped as they could not procure required materials. “It would not be a problem as these coaches will be stationed at major railway stations, where there are roofs to cut out the heat,” said sources. “So, heat should not be a matter of concern.” All coaches were expected to be ready by April 10.