The Aarogya Maitri Aid Cube hospital can be assembled by five trained individuals in just one hour
India has recently unveiled an innovative "flatpack" field hospital, designed to be rapidly deployed in disaster zones.

This groundbreaking medical facility is compactly stored in 72 waterproof cubes, each cube weighing less than 15kg and measuring 38cm x 38cm x 38cm. The design allows for these cubes to be easily transported to remote areas affected by natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, and they are resilient enough to withstand airdrops from planes or helicopters.

The field hospital, which is part of the Bharat Health Initiative for Sahyog Hita and Maitri (BHISHM), was unveiled in Gurugram on December 4, 2023. It aims to provide essential medical support in low-income countries hit by natural calamities. This project executes India's progression in global humanitarian initiatives.

Named the Aarogya Maitri Aid Cube hospital, this facility can be assembled by five trained individuals in just one hour, transforming the cubes into a fully functional hospital capable of treating up to 200 patients. It includes small intensive-care units, an operating theatre, and a variety of medical equipment like portable X-ray and ultrasound machines, ventilators, and an anaesthesia pack. Additionally, it features a generator powered by solar panels, as well as provisions for water and a cooking station.

The hospital can be configured to meet immediate medical needs; for instance, the operating theatre can be set up in just 10 minutes if urgent surgery is required. The contents of 60 of the cubes are standard, while the remaining 12 can be customized based on the specific needs of the disaster scenario, such as prioritizing equipment for bone injuries in earthquake zones.

The development of this hospital was a collaborative effort involving doctors, army medics, engineers, and designers over a year. A significant challenge was miniaturizing equipment, like the X-ray machine, to fit into the cubes while ensuring they remained light enough for helicopter transport. Each cube is waterproof and corrosion-proof, tested for resilience through drops from helicopters and drones.

To aid in assembly and minimize errors, each cube pack includes a tablet computer with a program and an app that helps users locate items, monitor their usage and expiry dates, and prepare them for subsequent deployments. An alarm also sounds if the wrong equipment is placed in a cube.

India's flatpack field hospital marks a significant advancement over traditional field hospitals. Its modular design and lightweight components make it more cost-effective and quicker to assemble. Its durability and portability are also superior, ensuring it can be deployed in the most remote and harsh environments.

Doctors and disaster relief workers who have interacted with the hospital during trials praise its efficiency and adaptability, as well as the ease of transport and rapid assembly.

A specialized training program has been developed for individuals responsible for the hospital's assembly and operation. This program, spanning a few days, includes modules on effective assembly techniques, equipment handling, and basic maintenance. The training is tailored to accommodate diverse backgrounds, from medical professionals to military personnel and volunteers.

The design of the hospital takes into account environmental sustainability. The use of solar panels reduces dependence on traditional energy sources, while the materials used for the cubes are selected for their eco-friendliness and durability. The project also incorporates an efficient waste management system to minimize environmental impact during deployment.

Ongoing research aims to expand the hospital's capabilities, such as increasing patient capacity and adding telemedicine features. Future versions may also include specialized modules for dealing with chemical spills or outbreaks of infectious diseases, enhancing its utility in a broader range of disaster scenarios.