Mumbai: Wheel power to heal power

Updated: Aug 30, 2019, 08:53 IST | Hemal Ashar |

The Lifeline Express, a mobile hospital stationed at Platform No 10 gets ready to roll again from CSMT

The Lifeline Express on Platform 10 at CSMT. Pics/Suresh Karkera
The Lifeline Express on Platform 10 at CSMT. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Commuters had a 'stop-n-stare-n-share-a-selfie' moment amidst the Thursday morning frenzy at Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) on Thursday. The Lifeline Express, which is a hospital in a train, was parked at Platform No 10. The seven-compartment train has undergone a two-month revamp at the Matunga yard workshop.

"We have had two carriages refurbished," said Impact India's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder-Director Zelma Lazarus. Two of the carriages of 1992 vintage have been replaced by newer coaches. The coaches are of 2006 vintage and donated by the Railways this year and have been converted into hospital facilities with the cancer screening unit, pathology lab and pharmacy contained in the old coaches, reinstalled in them. This mobile hospital is an Indian Railways and Impact India Foundation partnership initiative and treats primarily the rural poor absolutely free of cost. "We are totally dependent on the Railways," said Lazarus, "from getting new compartments from the Railways, to running on broad gauge tracks." Neelam Kshirsagar, head of fund raising and partnerships at Impact India, said, "We also need to have a 'siding' where the train can stop and be stationed for days." Ramesh Surin, chairman, Impact, had a laconic, "fantastic and satisfying" as he saw the train stationed at platform 10.

The dental and orthopaedic facilities inside the train
The dental and orthopaedic facilities inside the train

For young Dr Palak Jindal, medical officer on the Lifeline, departure means, "being on the train as it leaves for Sahibganj (Jharkhand). Our medical programme runs from September 4 to September 25," said Dr Jindal, who is originally from Chandigarh. "I will be on the train throughout," she said. "We are laying stress on oral hygiene," said Dr Rohini Chowgule, trustee, Impact India Foundation. The doctor explained, "One more dental chair has been added to the existing two on the train. The Lifeline has been treating vision and hearing problems and cleft lip in substantial numbers for years. Now we have a bigger thrust on diabetes, hypertension, cardiac problems and early detection of cancer, especially in women," finished Dr Chowgule.

The Lifeline has an interesting genesis. Lazarus recounted to some visitors to the Lifeline on Thursday that the train began in 1991. She said, "I remember going to New Delhi and meeting the late minister George Fernandes. I did not have an appointment but requested a meeting. When I met him, I told him: 'I want a train.' Fernandes reacted: what? You want a train? Why?' Two days later I was called for a meeting again and Fernandes told me; I like the idea. I got the train." Lazarus ended, "My message and mission statement is SYNO (Stick Your Neck Out.) Do not think: how can I ask. If you believe in something, just ask. The worst you can get is a no." Fortunately for the economically disadvantaged who have been treated, it was not a 'no' but 'By George! he said yes and we got the train'.

Orthopaedic facilities inside the train
Orthopaedic facilities inside the train

Lifeline Express halts at

Sahibganj, Jharkhand
Korba, Chattisgarh
Forebesganj, Araria, Bihar
Dhubri, Assam
Kaliyaganj, West Bengal
Sitamarhi/Bajpatti, Bihar
Rayagada, Odisha
Gumto-Papumpare, Arunachal Pradesh
Banmankhi-Purena-Barsoi-Katihar, Bihar
Ambassa, Tripura

That's stats

Medically served: 12,32,032 people
Surgeries: 1,46,046
Locations: 201 rural places
Districts: 138
States: 19

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