The world’s first hospital train, Lifeline Express, which started 25 years ago with three wooden coaches bringing medical care to the remotest parts of the country, now has seven steel coaches. Two of its coaches were added on Thursday.
One coach will serve for cancer treatments and the other will be dedicated to family health services. The two coaches were inaugurated by railway minister Suresh Prabhu and minister of health and family welfare, JP Nadda, in New Delhi.
An initiative of the Impact India Foundation, Lifeline Express has treated around one million poor people in rural parts of the country free of cost since its inception in 1991. Nearly 2,00,000 medical professionals from around the world have donated their services.
“If patients can’t reach the hospital we can have the hospital reach the patients. Often in a rural district, even the biggest hospitals do not have either operation theatres or trained surgeons. Our train fills that gap,” Samir Shah, trustee of Impact India said.
The seven coaches of the Lifeline Express have operation theatres, a pathology lab, a mammography unit, a gynaecology examination room, a dental unit, a pharmacy, consultation cubicles, X-Ray services, among others.
The train is WiFi enabled which, for example, helps a doctor sitting in a city examine a patient’s X-ray report and other images.
In the 1990s, the train provided treatment primarily for cataract and polio but over the years, it has been providing plastic surgeries, dental surgeries, epilepsy services, cancer treatment and school health education for rural children.
Before a train arrives at a location, a medical team visits the area to carry out a study in to assess the health requirement of the locals.
“We collect the disability data, vital health indicators and the facilities that are available in the district. Based on that, we create a need assessment report for the location,” said Rajnish Gourh, chief operation officer of Impact India Foundation.
“Following this, a preliminary screening of the patients is carried out at the local primary health centre or community health centre and a list of those who require surgeries is prepared,” Gourh said.
Impact India has received Rs 1.1 crore from Cognizant Foundation for the new cancer coach. It has also entered into an MoU with Tata Memorial Hospital. Among its other sponsors are Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Chemicals, Tata Steel, Tata Trust, Emirates Airlines, SBI.
Impact India Foundation was founded by Zelma Lazarus in 1983 as part of National Plan of Action Against Avoidable Disablement with the active support of United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Its aim is to provide curative services to people suffering from various kinds of disabilities, mainly disorders of the eye, ear, nose, throat and limbs.