Aam Aadmi Party government's pilot mohalla clinic, in JJ colony in northwest Delhi, clocked some 3,500 patients in its maiden month of July, it's first monthly report said. By all accounts, the government's pet project is a resounding success.
Though Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inaugurated the clinic only in late July, the two room structure has been running since the beginning of the month. Staffed by a doctor, transferred from a government dispensary, and a helper, it has been providing free medicines, check-ups, and basic tests to the residents of the nearby relief camp, bringing them much relief. The prefabricated structure is the first primary health centre they have had in their midst, they say, since the previous dispensary was demolished a decade ago, forcing them to go the centres outside of the camp.
"How will someone like me cross two three roads and go the government dispensary?" asks Vidya Rani, who is well into her 70s and has trouble walking. "To hire autos go to the MCD or the government dispensary, we have to spend Rs. 50 - Rs 100," adds Asha Suren, "it is too much for us." The camp's residents are all refugees who fled Punjab during the militancy, and have been struggling with various state governments to set up their home in Delhi. They are the mohalla clinic's target group, those who fall through the cracks in Delhi's public health systems. Access to existing primary health centres, be they MCD clinics or government dispensaries is difficult, often so discouragingly so that some resign themselves to whatever ails their body.
The camp, with almost 15,000 residents, is located in Peeragarhi, part of Delhi's Shakurbasti constituency, which has some 4 MCD dispensaries. One is a one-station metro ride away from the camp; the government dispensary is a little over a two-kilometre walk away. However, these sjort distances, easily handles by Delhi's middle class, are not easy for residents of slum clusters and JJ colonies. Many are too old and ill to walk. The transport cost for a patient and an attendant is too much for them to keep paying. Many of the residents are daily wagers, who cannot afford to miss a day of work to undertake these excursions and then stand in line.
What has given them much peace of mind is having a doctor in their midst, who has come to know them personally, their community and all its problems.
"One woman in her 60s kept having vaginal bleeding. She didn't know what to do or where to go. Nor was she comfortable talking about it," says the Dr Alka Choudhary, who mans the clinic, as an example. "Because I was here, she could speak to me, we could do preliminary tests and use our ambulance to send her to a hospital for the care she needed."
This is one case. Residents of the colony are full of other such. There are those who have started getting regular health check ups done; the very basics such as blood pressure, sugar levels, which are still essential.
There is a certain pride they take in having the clinic amongst them, and making sure the area is regularly cleaned and hygienic. The government built a pucca road for the colony,and got drains in order, when it opened the clinic.
"There are very high expectations," says Dr. Choudhary, "they want all tests and medical facilities available here. We don't have heavy machinery yet, but we're working towards these goals."
It seems with the mohalla clinics, the AAP-led government has tapped into a large gap in Delhi's health problems and how to potentially fill it.