Hospital-on-rails for India’s rural population


New Delhi : A hospital-on-rails that will travel through India's vast rural hinterland was launched here Thursday, promising to bring free up-to-date medical and even surgical treatment for millions with little access to them.

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The new train, inaugurated by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at a function presided over by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, replaces the Lifeline Express that had been launched in July 1991 by Impact India Foundation in collaboration with Indian Railways and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

The coaches were redesigned and restored to be a fully functional, air-conditioned hospital, equipped with all modern diagnostic and medical facilities, including training facilities for up to 50 paramedics.

Surgeries are conducted during its four-six week stay at a particular location. Each five-week stop costs around Rs.2 million (Rs 20 lakhs).

The train is equipped with three operation tables, modern surgical equipment and accessories, kitchen, restrooms, sterilisation equipment, recovery room for the patients, audiometric/ophthalmic room and X-Ray room.

The project is funded by Impact UK, charitable organisations, Indian corporate houses and individuals.

According to the Impact India website, the train's services include surgical interventions to restore movement to polio and orthopaedic patients, cataract operations as well as preventive treatment in the form of immunisation, administration of nutrients and creating health awareness among the deprived in rural and semi-urban areas.

The original Lifeline Express was formed using four used coaches given by the railways. Along with the Impact India representatives, Sonia Gandhi had approached the former railway minister George Fernandes for providing four coaches to run the train hospital.

The coaches in the new hospital on wheels were manufactured at the Indian Coach Factory, Perambadur.