Over 450 doctors recruited recently as medical officers in the CAPFs have been asked to join service "immediately" as the forces are ramping up their healthcare setup to combat COVID-19, a top paramilitary officer said on Sunday.
Retired medical officers have been "alerted" and modalities are being worked on to hire doctors on contractual service to man the chain of the forces' country-wide hospitals and quarantine centres that have a combined strength of more than 7,200 beds, ITBP Director General (DG) Surjeet Singh Deswal told PTI.
"Over 450 doctors who were recruited as medical officers for all the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) recently have been called to join duty immediately...with no loss of time. "They will enhance our strength in combating the situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak in the country," Deswal said.
A senior official said the plan was formulated at the ITBP headquarters and top-level sanctions were obtained from the Union Home Ministry before summoning these doctors.
These doctors, the DG said, were recruited recently by the government for the CAPFs and ITBP was the nodal agency for their recruitment.
The CAPFs have a combined strength of over 2,000 doctors and specialists at present apart from other paramedical staff.
These doctors are being posted to CAPF hospitals and bases near their place of stay so that they can join without having to travel far, the ITBP chief said.
The government had recently taken over the chain of 32 CAPF hospitals across the country, with a total capacity of about 1,900 beds, for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 affected patients.
These forces comprise the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
Elite counter-terror force National Security Guard (NSG) is also part of this wide setup of medical facilities being prepared in view of the increasing number of cases of coronavirus infections being reported from across the country.
"We are also preparing modalities to hire doctors on contract to work at our health facilities even as we have alerted those who have retired from service. Those who have superannuated are being asked to remain on standby as their services may be required anytime," Deswal said.
The ITBP, which is primarily tasked to guard the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, is also running a 1,000-bed quarantine in Delhi's Chhawla area.
A total of 418 Indians evacuated from Italy using special flights are housed at this facility at present, even as 518 citizens and foreigners have been discharged till now from here.
Deswal said the force, apart from round-the-clock medical monitoring and providing essential services of food and entertainment to the inmates, has now begun counselling them.
"Some of the people who have been evacuated from COVID-19-affected countries and are kept at our centre have high anxiety levels as they have seen devastation all around. That is normal for a human. "We have begun their counselling and are motivating them by presenting them the facts about this viral diseases and success stories," Deswal, a 1984-batch Haryana cadre IPS officer, said.
At present, he is also heading the BSF as an additional charge.
The DG said the morale of the force doctors and other staff members at the Chhawla camp is "high and they are committed in this fight against coronavirus".
They are very happy to do this national duty and we have provided all protective gear to all of them, he said.
The DG had on Saturday issued a message to the around 90,000-strong force that troops should be ready for any national duty that may be entrusted on them in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, and COVID-19 safety guidelines should be followed diligently.
The CAPFs also reported their first case of coronavirus infection on Saturday, with a BSF officer and a CISF jawan being found positive.
The CAPFs, which have around 10 lakh personnel, work under the command of the Home Ministry and are deployed to render a variety of internal security duties apart from border-guarding.