First such ad hoc facility at an altitude of 14,000 ft in Ladakh can treat gunshot wounds

Two years after 20 soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the Chinese army in Ladakh’s Galwan, the Indian Army has for the first time set up a field dressing station (FDS) in Galwan that, among other capabilities, will provide treatment for gunshot wounds at an altitude of over 14,000 feet.

India and China have been engaged in eyeball to eyeball positions at multiple locations along the undefined Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh for more than two years. While several rounds of talks at the diplomatic and military levels have eased the standoff at a few points, turning these areas into no-patrolling zones, there are others where the build-up continues.

A senior government official said the 20-bed FDS, which is an ad hoc medical facility unlike a regular field hospital, became operational in Galwan around three months ago.

“It can cater to all kinds of treatment a field hospital has but at a smaller scale,” said a defence source.

The government official said that the opening of the medical facility at such a high altitude is significant as there was no such arrangement earlier and any patient in a serious condition had to be either airlifted or brought down by road to the field hospital in Leh, more than 200 km away.

“A paramedical team and a doctor is always there on a standby with all patrolling units. However, the field dressing station will come in handy when there is no time to be lost. It will have the paraphernalia to treat soldiers with gunshot injuries, or serious patients, and then they can be referred to the field hospital in Leh,” the official said.

After the June 15 Galwan incident in 2020 in which 20 soldiers were killed, shots were fired at the south bank of the Pangong Lake in August-September but no injuries were reported. It was first time since 1975 that shots were fired along the LAC. The Army issued a statement then that China had carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo in south Pangong Tso and “Indian troops pre-empted this PLA [People’s Liberation Army] activity”.

India and China have held 15 rounds of meetings of senior commanders so far. Both sides failed to achieve a breakthrough for disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area in the 15th meeting held on March 11. The troops have pulled back from their positions in Galwan and on both the banks of Pangong Tso.

“After China amassed troops in April-May 2020, the deployment at Ladakh was also increased manifold. It takes time for freshly deployed soldiers to acclimatise to the weather at such a high altitude. There have been many cases of hypothermia and other injuries among the troops. The newly opened medical facility will cater to those needs as well,” the official said.

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