Community clinics changing Delhi’s medical landscape (2 years of AAP government)

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) In a narrow lane of an east Delhi neighbourhood, people queue up outside an inconspicuous building — some holding kids. It houses one of the 110 Mohalla Clinics the AAP government has opened in the capital to make healthcare accessible to people for free.

The Patparganj facility, part of an initiative lauded by The Lancet Journal and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, is housed in two rooms and a small hallway of the ground floor of a three-storey complex.

Doctors and other staff say around 150 patients come every day to get free consultation, medicines and medical examinations.

One of the visitors, Sonia’s son is suffering from cold and cough for some days. This is her second visit to the clinic. The mother says the boy is feeling a lot better.

The clinic has proved to be an asset for low income people, Sonia told IANS.

“For minor ailments like cough, cold and fever, we would earlier just get medicines from medical stores without consulting a doctor. Even then, it would cost Rs 150-200.

“Now we don’t pay anything. We get proper medical advice and even get medical tests free of cost,” she said.

Ranjana Saxena, the doctor at the clinic, sees at least 130 patients daily.

“Sometimes this goes up to 180. We conduct all kinds blood tests and also provide immunization for children and pregnant mothers,” she said.

Food-stall vendor Vinod Kumar is carrying some tablets and a cough syrup he has got from the clinic. He had come for a medical check-up of his wife but ended up getting consultation for himself as well.

“This is the biggest benefit” of the Mohalla Clinics, he said, referring to a unique primary healthcare initiative launched by the Arvind Kejriwal government that begins its third year on Tuesday.

“People who would normally avoid treatment for financial reasons now seek medical help for every illness,” Vinod told IANS.

A majority of the 110 Mohalla Clinics in the capital are located mostly in poor neighbourhoods although a handful are in middle class colonies.

Delhi’s soft-spoken Health Minister Satyendar Jain said people who visit these clinics “are quite happy” but he is not because “my work is not done yet”.

“The real change will come only after we build all 1,000 clinics we had promised. Only then these clinics will be evenly spread across the city and residents will find one within a kilometre of their homes,” Jain told IANS.

He said once all 1,000 Mohalla Clinics are up and running, the burden on hospitals will substantially reduce. “They will then look like hospitals, not railway platforms.”

The AAP leader said there was a lot of demand for healthcare in the city of 18 million.

Till now, over 23 lakh people have availed of the services at the Mohalla Clinics. Of this around 50 per cent were those who used government medical services for the first time, the minister said.

“Poor will come for treatment when they are sick. But people from middle class will also come for regular check-ups and preventive measures as well, which is great,” he said.

The AAP blames the delay in building 1,000 Mohalla Clinics by December 31 to the hurdles imposed by former Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, an appointee of the central government.

Jain says it will take another four to five months to build all of them. “It is unfortunate such a good project is being delayed due to political reasons.”

(Vishav can be contacted at vishav@ians.in)

–IANS

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