Now, mobile hospitals to assist quake or terror attack victims

April 6th, 2009 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Learning a lesson from the massive destruction caused by the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat that killed 20,000 people and damaged around 3,812 health facilities, the Indian government is all set to launch five mobile hospitals that could be airlifted to areas that have either been hit by a earthquake or seen a terror attack.
These self-sufficient mobile hospitals, having 200 beds, an intensive care unit (ICU), a laboratory, and a blood bank, would start functioning soon after reaching a site struck by either a man-made or a natural disaster, Shakti Gupta, the member of the steering committee of the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) under the Home Ministry, Monday said.

One mobile hospital would cost Rs. 300 million, he added.

“The need for mobile hospital was first felt during the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. The need for this service was also felt as over 3,000 health facilities had been destroyed, which made it difficult to provide medical aid to the injured,” Gupta told reporters at the launch of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s campaign - “Save Lives, Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies” on the occasion of World Health Day 2009.

The Home Ministry had initially given an order for two such mobile hospitals, but then raised the number to five, Gupta said, adding these five units would be placed in five different zones of India — east, west, south, north and centre.

“The plan was approved soon after the Gujarat earthquake. When Gujarat saw a series of terror attack, including in a hospital (in July 2008), it was realised that these mobile hospitals could be of great help in providing health facilities even during a terror strike and not just during earthquakes or floods,” he added.

Gupta, who is also the medical superintendent of the Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said: “These are self-sufficient hospitals and could be air-lifted to any part of the country within two hours and start functioning soon after reaching the area”.

Doctors at these mobile hospitals are geared to carry out emergency services, including surgeries, and the hospital will also have medicines and necessary equipments to carry out any medical tests.

Gupta said during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake when hospital facilities were destroyed, a private company had provided pre-fabricated hospitals that could be set up in six hours time and start providing medical aid.

“But the mobile hospitals are better equipped then these pre-fabricated hospitals,” he said.

However, he noted the country sadly lacks network between hospitals. “If some emergency occurs, each hospital in an area could be connected to the other so that if there is a need they could provide quick help. Sadly, there is no communication between them,” he said

He said although new buildings, including medical colleges in the country, are now earthquake-resistant but many old ones, including AIIMS, are yet to be equipped to handle a natural disaster like earthquake.

“The best thing the new hospitals that are coming up could do is shell out just five percent more money to make their structures disaster-proof. Old ones need to carry out retrofitting in a phased manner to be disaster-proof,” Gupta said.

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