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Mohalla Clinics: What's Really Happening at Delhi's Mohalla Clinics?

Are Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics Meeting the Mark? Long Waits, Limited Services, and Red Tape Frustrate Residents.

By Sweekriti Agrawal
New Update

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently applauded the Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics saying, "They are free, have good doctors, and provide quality treatment. The Mohalla Clinics have even garnered global attention." According to Kejriwal, the clinics, introduced by the Aam Aadmi Party government in 2015, provide quality healthcare including free medicines, diagnostic tests, and consultations to Delhi’s residents. However, our investigation paints a more complex picture.

Mohalla Clinics: Doors Shut During Regular Hours

On a visit to the Wazirabad Mohalla Clinic, we found the doors closed despite it being a regular working day. Several Mohalla clinics across Delhi were not operational during working hours. Meenakshi, a local resident, said, "On the morning of August 18th, I came here, but the clinic was closed for three days. I had to go to a private facility located far away."

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Meenakshi wasn't the only one. Horilal, another local resident, also shared his experience, saying, "I have a burning sensation in my legs. The medicines prescribed by the Mohalla Clinic doctors offer very little relief." When asked whether the doctors properly examined him, he responded, "They checked me only once, but not during my other visits. I don't know why they didn't examine me."

Mohalla Clinics: Questionable Quality of Care - Patients Speak Out

Another concerning aspect of the Mohalla Clinics is the level of care provided. Yashoda, a resident who frequents the clinic, stated, "They only examine patients from a distance; they don't get close to them. If someone tries to discuss their symptoms, the doctors often scold them."

Meenakshi also echoed these concerns, sharing her own experience when she brought her baby to the clinic. "My baby was experiencing ear pain. They didn't conduct a proper check-up; they simply asked for his name and what was wrong, and then prescribed medication," she said. When she asked for advice on breastfeeding, "They ignored me and seemed eager to get rid of me as soon as possible."

Unpacking the Overcrowding and Inefficacy of Delhi's Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics in Delhi have been in the limelight for their apparent success. However, the reality appears to be different. Tannu, a local resident, paints a picture of a clinic that is overwhelmingly crowded. "The clinic is usually extremely crowded, to the extent that the queue extends outside the building. People from other localities also come here, and that adds to the overcrowding," said Tannu.

Further, Tannu raised a critical issue about jurisdiction, stating, "When we try to go to the clinic in Vasundhara Enclave, they turn us away, saying, 'You're from another area, so you can't come here for check-ups.’ However, the clinic in my area accepts people from all states. Each clinic should serve only its designated area."

Tarun Kumar and Saroj, local residents, also echo Tannu's concerns about overcrowding. "People from other states like UP also come here for treatment. The overcrowding means that the limited operational hours can't accommodate everyone, often going past 2-3 PM," explained Tarun.

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Saroj reiterated, "Due to the crowd, local residents don't get timely appointments. People from places like Khora and Ashok Nagar also come to this clinic, which makes local residents wait longer."

Ineffective Medications: Are Mohalla Clinics Cutting Corners?

Abrisa, another clinic-goer, drew attention to the questionable quality of medical supplies and treatments. "Good medicines are not provided. I took medicine for back pain but experienced no relief. It seems like the same medicines are given for fevers and pains; it's as if all the medications are the same," she pointed out.

Additionally, Abrisa revealed a lack of essential medical supplies, "I injured my hand and asked for Betadine; they told me it wasn't available. Only a few tests are available, and when I wanted a test for my son, they said it would be conducted only if necessary and they asked me to come after a few days. When I went after a couple of days, they again refused to do the tests."

"No Mobile, No Medicine": A Growing Chorus of Complaints

The Delhi government's Mohalla Clinics were established to improve healthcare accessibility for all, but many citizens claim otherwise. Anita Devi, Julia, and Shanti articulate a shared sentiment about how they are turned away for not having a mobile number. "They tell us that treatment will be provided only if we have a mobile phone. They just turn us away as we don’t have a phone number. If they don't assist us, what are we supposed to do? We then have to consult private doctors and spend Rs 1,000-2,000 just to get medications," said Anita Devi. Julia added, "I neither know my age nor do I have a mobile phone. What else do I say?"

Shanti's plight echoes this frustration. "They neither provide medicines nor do check-ups because I don’t have a mobile phone. For whom has Kejriwal opened these clinics? These clinics are definitely not for the marginalised and downtrodden," she states emphatically.

Puneet Shukla and Yashoda shed light on another issue—mandatory multiple forms of identification just to avail basic healthcare services. "An Aadhaar Card should be sufficient for any test reports, but here they also ask us for a Voters ID Card," says Puneet Shukla.

Yashoda pointed out the sharp contrast between previous experiences and the current situation. "Three years ago, during my pregnancy, a phone number wasn't required—only the Aadhaar Card was needed. Now they say, 'Come with your phone numbers,'" she reveals.

We approached the Delhi government for a comment on the issues plaguing the city’s Mohalla clinics but received no responses. The true measure of the success of Mohalla Clinics lies in their impact on the "Aam Aadmi"—the common man. While these clinics break new ground in public healthcare, their success hinges on rigorous implementation and meticulous oversight. In the absence of this, they risk perpetuating the very issues they aim to resolve.

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