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The commandant of the army’s Base Hospital in Delhi, Major General Vasu Vardhan, has been transferred out of the premier hospital, triggering speculation in some military circles about the reason behind the sudden move that came barely three months before the military doctor’s retirement, people familiar with the development said on Wednesday.
But senior officials in the Army Headquarters said it was a routine transfer after the completion of the usual 18-month tenure.
Vardhan has been posted at the Delhi-based Army Hospital (Research and Referral) as an additional officer and is being replaced by Major General SK Singh, deputy commandant of the Army Medical Corps Centre and College, Lucknow. The Directorate General of Medical Services (Army) issued the transfer order on May 10.
The change of guard at the Base Hospital comes at a crucial juncture when its infrastructure has been stretched by a deluge of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases among serving soldiers, veterans and their dependents.
“The commandant has completed more than 18 months in his current appointment. It is a routine posting carried out as part of a larger plan of HR management within the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS),” a senior official in the Army Headquarters said.
The Base Hospital was converted into an all-Covid-19 facility for soldiers, veterans and their dependents in April after a second wave of infections tightened its grip on the country.
“It is unusual for a hospital commandant to be moved out like this three months before retirement. I think there’s more to this than meets the eye,” said a former director general of the AFMS, asking not to be named.
Vardhan refused to comment on his transfer. “Nothing from my side on this,” he said.
The Base Hospital currently has 650 beds, but its capacity will be increased to 900 oxygenated beds by mid-June to cater to the rising patient load.
More than 5,000 soldiers from the three services are currently undergoing Covid-19 treatment in military hospitals across the country, almost a five-fold jump in hospital admissions in three weeks after the second wave erupted, as reported by SNN on Wednesday.
The cases under hospitalisation in the military increased from 1,067 on April 18 to 5,134 on May 10, reflecting in some measure the wider national trend of a surge in coronavirus infections.
The 1.5-million strong armed forces have done a better job than others in checking the transmission of the virus and keeping the mortality rate exceptionally low by adhering to strict Covid-19 protocols — 133 deaths of serving soldiers have been reported since the pandemic broke out last year.