Aiming to provide basic healthcare to the poor in India's capital, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government plans to open 1,000 Mohalla Clinics in slum clusters and poorer neighborhoods in outlying areas of Delhi. This will also ease the burden on over-crowded hospitals. The AAP government had earmarked Rs. 3,138 crore for the health sector in its maiden Rs. 41,129 crore budget presented in June. The first such unit has already become very popular among the residents of the settlement inhabited largely by migrant worker families who live on small and uncertain incomes.
The compact, modern structure of the clinic with lively, colorful exteriors is a far cry from what the expression 'government primary health center' brings to mind. A covered verandah leads to a roughly 25 feet x 15 feet room that has been divided into two parts. The first comprises the reception and digital registration area, testing laboratory and pharmacy while the other is for the doctor. The Mohalla clinic is air-conditioned and equipped with all that one would expect in a private doctor's facility, as also an LED TV and a refrigerator.
More such clinics will be set up in habitations of sizable numbers like unauthorized colonies, rehabilitation colonies and urban villages largely inhabited by the poor that do not have access to private doctors. About 50 basic tests will be conducted at each clinic while basic medicines will also be given out for free.
Long queues of patients can be seen outside the center which runs from 8 a.m to 2 p.m. Besides a doctor, the center also has a pharmacist, a lab technician and a trained midwife. Dr. Alka Choudhary, the doctor at the center, said, "Every day 180-190 patients visit the clinic. They don't have to go to hospitals for minor ailments. The infrastructure is so good that the work environment becomes conducive. You don't feel tired. These people are poor and are not aware of their rights. Many a time women come here complaining of domestic violence that they have faced. We have guided them to go through the proper channel (for redressal)."
Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain said, "The AAP government had first studied the health systems of other countries. We came up with this concept only after studying the health systems of the US, Brazil, Switzerland and Cuba. The cost of building one Mohalla Clinic is between Rs. 15 lakh and Rs. 20 lakh, while a PHC requires Rs. 3 crore to Rs. 4 crore. We want middle-class people to visit the Mohalla Clinics. We will also increase facilities at these centers. For instance, mobile applications will enable people take appointment without standing in a queue. The ultimate aim is to improve the health infrastructure. Common people visit government hospitals for minor ailments that reduce their efficiency. Once they start coming to Mohalla Clinics, the burden on hospitals will reduce."