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What is a Hospital Train?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

A hospital train is a type of rail transport which serves as a healthcare facility. In some regions of the world, this train travels from one city to another, stopping to provide medical services at each station. Other times, it is used to transport people from remote locations to public hospitals so they can receive treatment. Physicians and nurses who care for patients while they are traveling on the rail cars normally staff the train.

These railway trains were historically used to transport wounded and dying soldiers from the battlefield to treatment centers. The cars were often painted white with a red cross, signifying humanitarian aid. Healthcare trains would often connect with hospital ships that would transport patients via sea.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

In some parts of the world, a hospital train is still used much in the same way. This is often done in remote areas of the world that have no modern treatment facilities nearby. The train can also be used to provide shelter to refugees and ensure their health and well-being while being transported to safety.

A hospital train can provide a number of services. Services range from routine physical examinations to performing complex surgical procedures. It can also involve stabilizing a patient while he is being transported to a more modern medical facility. Each rail car might serve a specific function, with some being used for examinations and others reserved for hospital beds.

Some hospital trains operate as a mobile health clinic. These types of healthcare facilities typically travel a specific route, stopping in certain villages at regular intervals. They might remain parked in a location for a week or so, providing villagers with medical care that might otherwise be unavailable. The train might also have cars dedicated to conditions that are more serious, operating as a temporary emergency room.

The type of medical staff found on a hospital train varies from one region to the next. Some have physicians and nurses on board to treat patients, especially trains that transport critically ill people. Other trains only have nurses traveling on them who then seek the help of local doctors whenever they arrive at a particular station.

In some instances, a hospital train might provide very specific services. For example, some trains in China provide only eye care. Residents can get an eye examination, glasses, and even have cataract surgery performed at a rail station. Many times, this care is provided at no cost to these citizens.

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      Woman with hand on her hip