Around 320 isolation coaches are ready for deployment in the jurisdiction of South Western Railways

The current protocol advising home isolation for those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and the demand for oxygenated beds and ventilators has ensured that the isolation coaches made ready by the Railways remain unused as of now.

There are nearly 320 isolation coaches ready for deployment anywhere in the jurisdiction of the South Western Railways but so far they have not been utilized despite the surge in COVID-19 cases. The Railways’ authorities have been directed to remain in a state of ‘full preparedness’ to handle patients at short notice. Consequently, the Mysuru Division of the South Western Railway will conduct interviews to recruit eligible doctors, nurses and pharmacists on a contract basis for the COVID-19 Isolation Ward and the Railway Hospital in Mysuru and for the Isolation Coaches. (Candidates may call 0821-2428630.)

Walk-in interview

The walk-in interview is scheduled to be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the DRM’s office in Mysuru and the authorities intend to appoint 14 doctors, 20 nurses and 2 pharmacists for COVID-19 duties.

Though the conventional coaches of the Railways were modified last year to function as isolation wards where patients could be quarantined, they were not deployed. The coaches were modified by removing the middle berths and ladders for greater comfort and to create additional space; providing holders in each compartment for holding medical equipment as well as water bottles, etc. Each can accommodate 16 to 18 patients at a time.

A senior official in the district administration said the effort is commendable but the issue in the second wave is not of isolating or ensuring quarantine. “There is a surge in demand for oxygenated beds and ventilators and hence the isolation coaches of the Railways have remained unused,” he said.

Even hospital admission is being carefully regulated and only serious cases requiring monitoring are being given preference. Doctors aver that in almost 90% of the cases, isolation will suffice for which there were plenty of options and facilities have been created by the district administrations. This ranges from tie-ups with hotels or converting hostels or vacant buildings into COVID-19 Care Centres, etc., and could be reasons why the isolation coaches are going underutilized.

Other facilities

But senior railway officials said cities like Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hubballi or Belagavi may not require isolation coaches given the facilities they may have. However, the idea behind the coaches is to deploy them in wayside stations where there are hardly any facilities or options for quarantining. Patients with mild to moderate symptoms could be shifted to isolation coaches which will also reduce the burden on district centres, the officials added.

Though hardly deployed anywhere in the country last year, they are in use in certain States given the surge. Hence, the railway staff in SWR have been directed to remain prepared so that they could be deployed at short notice, if the need arises.

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