As experts warn of a possible third wave of Covid-19, India has begun laying the foundation to be able to handle any such crisis in the future. Installing pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants across different hospitals in India, setting up modular hospitals and ‘Project O2’ are some steps being taken by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and the health ministry.
As per DRDO, a total of 850 oxygen plants are being set up in various districts of the country from the PM Cares Fund to cater to the needs of the country in fighting the pandemic.
Dr C Satish Reddy, Secretary of DRDO, said at the Department of Science & Technology’s Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Discourse Series that DRDO is prepared to provide all kinds of support when the need arises.
“During the second wave, we established temporary hospitals specific to Covid-19 in many cities. These are modular hospitals, also called ‘flying hospitals’, and they have been made in such a way that the virus does not go out of the hospitals. If there is a third wave, all hospitals will take the load and the government is discussing these aspects with various stakeholders,” said Dr Reddy.
As Covid-19 cases surged in different parts of the country during the second wave, the infrastructure in hospitals was under immense pressure. But innovative modular hospitals provided some relief in this situation.
Modular hospitals are an extension of hospital infrastructure and can be built adjacent to an existing hospital building. Project Extension Hospitals is one such initiative. The Centre identified the requirements of around 50 hospitals in states that were reporting the highest number of Covid-19 cases.
Modulus Housing, a start-up incubated at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), developed MediCAB hospitals. This enables the building of a 100-bedded extension facility in three weeks’ time.
MediCAB hospitals are designed with a dedicated zone of intensive care units that can accommodate life-support equipment and medical devices.
These portable hospitals have a durability of around 25 years and they can be shifted in the future to respond to any disaster in less than a week. These rapidly deployable hospitals can plug a major health infrastructure gap in India’s fight against Covid-19, especially in rural areas and smaller towns.
The office of the Principal Scientific Adviser has been actively working towards securing corporate social responsibility financial support to implement these projects in different areas across the nation.
Modulus Housing has started deploying MediCAB extension hospitals with the help of the American Indian Foundation, Mastercard, Texas Instruments, Zscaler, PNB Housing, Goldman Sachs, Lenovo and NASSCOM Foundation.
The first batch of 100-bedded hospitals was commissioned in Bilaspur, Amravati, Pune, Jalna, Mohali and a 20-bed hospital in Raipur. Bengaluru will have one each of 20-, 50-, and 100-beds in the first phase.
The Centre also collaborated with Tata Projects Ltd to deploy modular hospitals at multiple sites in Punjab and Chhattisgarh. They have initiated work on 48-bedded modular hospitals in Gurdaspur and Faridkot. Expansion of the ICU at multiple hospitals in Chhattisgarh is also underway.
The second wave of Covid-19 also saw an increase in demand for medical oxygen in different parts of the country. Manufacturing medical oxygen has become essential to ensure we have adequate supply in the future.
Under Project O2 for India, a National Consortium of Oxygen is enabling national-level supply of critical raw materials such as zeolites, setting up of small oxygen plants, manufacturing compressors, concentrators and ventilators.
The consortium is not only planning to provide immediate relief but also working to strengthen the manufacturing ecosystem for long-term preparedness. A committee of experts has been evaluating critical equipment such as oxygen plants, concentrators, and ventilators from a pool of India-based manufacturers, start-ups, and MSMEs.