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Delhi DRDO Covid facility that was shut during lull to open again

The facility had been opened in July last year when the city saw a shortage of ICU beds, and had the capacity to admit 1,000 patients. On Monday, it is expected to restart with 250 ICU-ventilator beds, DRDO officials said.

Written by Ananya Tiwari | New Delhi |
Updated: April 19, 2021 7:55:15 am
Defence personnel prepare the 500 bedded DRDO Covid Care centre in New Delhi on Sunday. Express Photo by Abhinav Saha

Shut two months ago, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Covid hospital constructed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) near Dhaula Kuan in Delhi will reopen for Covid patients on Monday.

The facility had been opened in July last year when the city saw a shortage of ICU beds, and had the capacity to admit 1,000 patients. On Monday, it is expected to restart with 250 ICU-ventilator beds, DRDO officials said.

Over the past two weeks, Delhi has seen record surges in Covid cases. Close to 25,500 new cases were detected on Sunday, the most for any Indian city so far. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said hospitals were running out of beds and oxygen, and appealed to the Centre for help.

The DRDO facility wound up operations a little over a month before the present crisis – which the Delhi government has called the “fourth wave” – hit the national capital. Before it shut on February 18, the facility had six-seven patients, and it closed its doors by orders of the Ministry of Home Affairs after they were discharged.

All four hangars where the temporary wards were set up were fully dismantled, equipment was sent back to where they had come from, and beds were removed. Only one bare hangar and a main tent that served as the entrance and lobby area, remained.

“A team of the AFMS, led by Additional DGAFMS Major General S S Bhatia, will take over from Sunday and patients are likely to be taken in from Monday.

The temporary facility had come up when Delhi was seeing around 2,500 cases a day – a tenth of the numbers now. The four hangars were made of prefabricated material and had 1,000 beds, of which 250 were ICU beds, which came up in 12 days.

When Delhi reached its previous peak in November, of around 8,500 cases a day, the temporary hospital also saw its highest patient load of 552 patients.

When the decision to shut the centre was taken in February, states such as Maharashtra and Punjab were already seeing a fresh surge. On February 18, Maharashtra reported 5,427 cases, crossing the 5,000 mark for the first time after dropping below 2,000. Mumbai alone saw 736 cases after previously dropping below 400.

When The Indian Express visited the facility on Sunday, one hangar had been set up again, with 250 beds and healthcare staff from the Armed Forces Medical Services present at the site.

Another hangar was under construction to accommodate 250 more beds; it was expected to be ready to admit patients in the coming week. The prefabricated frames are made of aluminium alloy, and the sheet is a fire-resistant poly-elastic material. The frames require assembling.

“We shall start with 250 beds for now from Monday, and the infrastructure is complete for it. It has oxygen support and ventilators, and the hangar is fully equipped with centralised air conditioning, a basic lab, and a pharmacy,” Dr K Radhakrishnan, chief construction engineer (R&D), DRDO, said. Construction of another hangar was underway, he said.

“A team of the AFMS, led by Additional DGAFMS Major General S S Bhatia, will take over from Sunday and patients are likely to be taken in from Monday. Two doctors are from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also,” he said.

The DRDO site is not the only one that was dismantled and is now being set up again. The Delhi government had shut down the 500-bed Covid care centre at the Commonwealth Games Village as well, as very few people were reporting to it. That centre is now being restarted as well.

The ITBP-run centre at the Radha Soami Satsang grounds in Chhatarpur was also shut in February, and is now being readied for patients again.

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