Dateline visits India’s Lifeline Express hospital, with medical outreach to the far corners of a vast nation.
There are 1.3 billion people in India and 70 per cent of them live in rural villages where access to medical care is extremely restricted. For these people a simple visit to the doctor can be impossible, with healthcare too far away or too costly. But a fully functioning hospital on wheels is bringing help and hope to desperate patients.
The Lifeline Express hospital train uses India’s rail network to deliver medical care and life changing operations to the country’s most vulnerable and remote people.
This Tuesday, Dateline reporter Calliste Weitenberg explores the inner workings of the hospital train through the eyes of the doctors, nursing staff, specialists and cooks. She meets patients who’ve travelled up to four hours with the hope of receiving treatment for a variety of conditions – from cancer screenings to cataracts, for the old and the young.
Calliste meets two young brothers with cerebral palsy – Aditya and Virat – who can barely walk. Their parents have tried everything to get access to treatment, but they earn just $3 a day and can’t afford expensive private healthcare. For them the Lifeline Express is their last hope. Dateline is there when the train’s orthopaedic surgeons perform a simple operation that will enable the boys to walk normally.
The train’s head chef has lived and worked on board for 26 years. “In the train, each member of the staff has their own role to play. Everyone has a responsibility and if they don’t perform their responsibility, the train will not be able to function,” Raj tells Dateline.
Plastic surgeon Dr Nilesh specialises in repairing cleft lifts. He and the Lifeline Express team will perform as many operations as they can before the train is scheduled to depart. “To operate on a train is coming out of your comfort zone of operating in the major hospitals,” he tells Dateline.
“It is challenging because it is an unfamiliar situation and you are not aware of many things, but we have to put up with the limitations if we are to serve the people.”
Tuesday 28 August at 9.30pm on SBS.