New Delhi: If a prolonged skin infection wasn't enough to affect Santosh Kumar's life, standing in long OPD queues for hours also negatively impacted his income by taking him off the roads. The e-rickshaw driver "felt blessed" when a Mohalla Clinic opened near his house in Dilshad Garden.
"I tried treatment in government hospitals but the long queues used to take me off the roads for so long that it was difficult for me to run the house. Going to private clinics or hospitals was costly. A mohalla clinic was opened here a few years back. My skin issue is totally fine and this does not cost me anything," he told IANS on a visit to the clinic for his 2-year-old granddaughter.
Started in 2015, the Delhi government's affordable health initiative has helped people by providing health facilities at almost their doorstep.
"Had it not been the clinic", Santosh could not afford the treatment.
Arti echoed his emotions as the facility offers her easy and affordable health benefits for her two children.
"Having two school-going sons, we need to visit the doctor frequently. This clinic is good as the school gets over at 1 p.m. and I bring them (children) here for whatever issues they have," she said.
Earlier it was difficult as well as expensive to take the children to hospitals. The proximity of the clinic is an added perk.
"This is at a walking distance. I can easily come here and get the treatment without any hassle or issue. They also give medicines and so you don't have to stand in another queue for hours," she said.
While the relief to the patients and guardians is a positive, the staff could do with a little less work.
Madhu, a lab technician, told IANS that workload at the clinic is too much.
"The clinic opens at 8 a.m. and the people start coming soon after. They continue to come even when the time is over. We have to inform them that the time is over and the doctor has to go. However, they refuse to listen. If there is some emergency, we do look at the patients," she informed.
On an average 200 people visit a clinic, however, there are days when even 250 patient are registered, she added.
"The government decided to have evening shifts as there were too many people. We don't have a double shift here but the clinic in Sunder Nagri (also in Dilshad Garden) has double shift and so after our time is over, we ask the patients to go there."
According to a Health Department official, 21 Mohalla Clinics are running in double shift in the city.
"While the clinics are working from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., those with double shifts are running between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 1 p.m and 7 p.m. with two different sets of staff members, including doctors," the official said.
The clinics, functional on all days except Sunday, provide services like basic medical care for common illnesses like fever, diarrhoea, skin problems, respiratory problems, first aid for injuries and burns, dressing and management of minor wounds and referral services. It also allows 212 lab tests.
"While the medicines are provided free of cost to the patients as per the essential drug list, the lab investigations were carried out by the empanelled laboratories," the official said.
Along with providing health-related information, education and awareness, the clinics also provide antenatal and postnatal care, assessment of nutritional status and counselling.
Upon visiting another clinic in Trilokpuri, IANS found a long queue of patients.
However, the long queue is not a deterrent to the people of the locality.
For 28-year-old Fathima suffering with a back issue it is the "free medicine and counselling" that trumps over other hospitals. "Why will we go to any other place which is far away from my place."
On the other hand, the clinic was helpful to 23-year-old Ayush Yadav, a student from Bihar, as he gets a fixed amount of money from home.
"Managing everything in that money is difficult. Also, for minor treatments, I don't have to take off from college," the graduation student from Delhi University said.
The Mohalla Clinic project has been praised by Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of United Nations and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of World Health Organisation, with the world leaders seeing it as a move towards achieving better health coverage.
The Aam Aadmi Party had promised 1,000 Mohalla Clinics soon after it came to power. However, reaching that target has remained a challenge for AAP with only operational 201 clinics so far.
According to a Health Department official, sites for 721 clinics have been identified until March. Permission for 614 sites has been given from the land-owning agencies.
"By this year-end, the number of clinics will go up as the work is underway in full swing," the official said.
The official added that land identification and finalisation have been a major issue before the Department, as the land is not under the Delhi government.
The sites for the clinics were inspected by the officials from the Health Department, PWD and the land-owning agency.
"After the land is finalised and approved, the land-owning agency has to issue a NOC," he added.
Health Minister Satyendar Jain was also confident of building 1,000 mohalla clinics by the end of 2019.
Delhi will go to polls in few months as the tenure of Kejriwal ends in February 2020.