The Wall Street Journal examines Lifeline Express, "the world's first hospital on rails," which is run by Impact India, a group that "initially focused on immunization and prevention of diseases such as polio and malaria." Its success has spread to China and Zimbabwe, where three Lifeline Express trains are operated, and to "hospital river boats based on the India model have been set up to tend to patients in Bangladesh and Cambodia." It has also been used as a model for other health projects in India, according to the newspaper.
The article outlines the service's evolution from a van to a train that runs along "India's railway system - all 109,000 kilometers (68,000 miles) of it," the newspaper writes. The present Lifeline Express "has state-of-the-art facilities ... The train may be new, but the procedures have remained much the same since the early days. Lasting three to four weeks, each project serves nearly 5,000 people and relies on community participation. At every stop, local villages and non-governmental organizations offer various assistance, from food and laundry services to crowd control ... to finding accommodations for post-operative patients and family who accompany them," according to the Wall Street Journal. "The train has only a few permanent staffers ... All medical specialists - surgeons, doctors, nurses, anesthetists - are volunteers," reports the newspaper.
The train specializes in dealing with "avoidable disabilities," such as "ear and eye ailments, as well as orthopedic and facial handicaps ... illnesses caused by polio and cleft palates," the Wall Street Journal writes. G. Chandrasekhar, medical director of K.B.H. Bachooali Charitable Ophthalmic & ENT Hospital in Mumbai, India, addressed the train's accessibility: "My hospital also performs free surgeries, but patients have to reach here. Lifeline Express takes me to the patient." The train helps to overcome a shortage of doctors, nurses and oral surgeons because it delivers care to rural populations where the "scarcity is especially pronounced," reports the newspaper.
The article also looks at the issues involved with sustaining the train long-term and notes another Impact India project, which aims to address health in the patients communities (4/1).