Changing face of rural healthcare

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. It's a train with a difference! Rather than carrying passengers, it brings medical help at the doorstep of people in even remote areas where no doctors had reached before.

`Hospital on wheels' as it is popular among the masses, is a venture of Indian Railways and an International NGO, Impact India Foundation, which is slowly changing the face of rural healthcare in India.

The Project has won international acclaim and several awards, including the United Nations Grand Award for Excellence in Public Service Worldwide. While the train has been replicated in Central Africa and China and with a riverboat hospital in Bangladesh, Chairman, Impact India Foundation, A H Tobaccowala, says.

``Lifeline Express as the train is called has helped doctors reach the remote corners of the country and treat over 6,000 people with disability, besides providing basic treatment to millions of underprivileged, since 1991,'' he says.

The train was recently in the national capital to showcase the world's first hospital on train for both young and the old, he says.

The train is fully equipped with all facilities of a modern hospital. With the support of 70,000 medical personnel and donors, the train has helped restore sight, movement and hearing, he says.

Nearly 400,000 rural poor have been treated for correction of clefts free of cost, spokesperson of the Indian Railways M Y Qureshi says.

The project was part of former Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru's vision to use the vast network of the Indian railways in rushing essential services to remote corners of India. If disabled people couldn't go to a hospital, doctors should reach them, Nehru had dreamt, he says.

The Indian Railways, which coordinates the movement of the Lifeline Express, provides parking facility along with water and electricity. While Impact India Foundation acts as a catalyst in bringing together business houses, NGOs, professionals to run the services, he says.

For each project, the hospital train is parked at a railway siding for a period of 30-45 days and provides on-the-spot-diagnostic, medical and surgical treatment, he says adding the train is on its way to Mithapur for the 70th project sponsored by Tata Chemicals.

The train has four specially designed air-conditioned coaches equipped with sophisticated medical and surgical facilities and a training centre, Tobaccowala, says.

The coaches have three operating tables with facilities for anesthesia, laboratory tests and X-rays, he says.

So far, the train has completed 67 projects in almost all Indian states and has served four lakh people in the heartland where medical facilities are scarce, he says.

All the medical facilities that are provided free of cost to the people in remote areas are generally sponsored by a business house, foundation, institution or the state government, Tobaccowala, says.

The train has also been instrumental in the Pulse Polio Immunisation Drive and helped administer polio drops to millions of children, CEO of Impact Asia-Pacific, Zelma Lazarus, says.


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