Assam CM's Critique of 'Mohalla Clinics' Contradicted: Read What Ground Reality and Public Opinion Says

Drawing inspiration from the effective model of mobile medical units (MMUs), the quantity of ‘mohalla clinics’ burgeoned from 106 in 2016 to 519 by 2022.
Assam CM's Critique of 'Mohalla Clinics' Contradicted: Read What Ground Reality and Public Opinion Says

New Delhi- Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is known for making ridiculous and far-fetched statements, has targeted Arvind Kejriwal this time. Poking fun at his healthcare model, Assam's CM argued that Mohalla Clinics, touted as a major success by the Delhi government, cannot serve as a viable model for healthcare across India.

On digging a little deeper into the concept and impact of Mohalla Clinics, one can easily understand where Sarma went wrong. While accessing healthcare for common illnesses meant rushing to government or private hospitals, often resulting in hefty bills for minor ailments, the neighborhood clinics decentralize the services.

According to a report by Oxfam titled ‘Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics: The First Line of Defence’ published in 2022, the establishment of Mohalla Clinics in Delhi expanded the availability of healthcare facilities with physicians fivefold.

“The locations for these clinics were likewise chosen in underprivileged communities to broaden the availability and accessibility of healthcare services for the poor and underserved. This suggests that providing health services tailored to the needs of the population and closer to the people might enhance utilization and draw them back to government healthcare,” the report added.

“Women, children, the elderly, migrants, and individuals who previously had no access to free healthcare services at government institutions are seen to be accessing these clinics. This helps in addressing the imbalances in healthcare that are latently fostered in our communities.”

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“Mohalla clinics have drastically reduced my medical bills,” Nitin, a Rapido rider from Madangiri told The Mooknayak. “My whole family goes to the clinic in our neighbourhood for medicines like iron supplements.”

Virendra Dogra, a music teacher based in Govindpuri has hailed the system. He further appreciated Kejriwal and said that he is one of the few politicians working for developing the health infrastructure, something that irks the other party members.

Indiaspend, a data journalism platform, quoted Meenu Verma, a 42-year-old resident of South Delhi's Sheikh Sarai, who said, "I have benefited a lot." She has been visiting the Mohalla Clinic every 20 days for the past two years to get medicine for thyroid and asthma. "I called all my sisters also to get check-ups done. The doctor tested us for iron, vitamin D, calcium, everything," Verma added.

The same report included the experience of Remi Thapa, a 55-year-old resident of South Delhi’s Khirki village, who remarked, "We had to start queuing from 7:00 a.m. in the morning for our turn at the OPD [outpatient department] at bigger hospitals. Here, the doctors are nice, they give us regular medicines and lifestyle advice on what to eat and how to exercise."

All is Not Well- Alleged Fraud of Some Clinics:

An investigation by the Vigilance Department revealed significant irregularities in seven Mohalla Clinics in Delhi, involving the manipulation of patient data to conduct a large number of tests on dummy patients, with payments made to private diagnostic firms.

This alleged scam came to light in September 2023 when it was discovered that some doctors and staff at seven Mohalla Clinics in the Southwest, Shahdara, and Northeast districts were fraudulently marking their attendance using pre-recorded videos.

The clinics involved were located in Jaffar Kalan, Ujwa, Shikarpur, Gopal Nagar, Dhansa, Jagjeet Nagar, and Bihari Colony. As a result, the implicated doctors were de-empanelled, and a formal complaint was registered against them.

Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj commented on the issue, acknowledging that he had received complaints about some doctors arriving late or leaving early, prompting him to order action against them in September.

He noted that both incidents were connected, stating, "A few mischievous doctors exploited the system… They handed over their pre-recorded video to fellow Mohalla Clinic employees, asking them to play it in front of the camera to forge their attendance… 26 employees, including seven doctors, were caught in such malpractices at different places… We fired them and ordered strong action."

Distribution of Public Healthcare Systems, Including Mohalla Clinics
Distribution of Public Healthcare Systems, Including Mohalla ClinicsDelhi Government

Mohalla Clinics- An Explainer:

Mohalla Clinics are often referred to as the "first line of defence" in Delhi's primary healthcare system. When the scheme was launched in 2015 in Peeragarhi, West Delhi, it received a mixed response. Inspired by the successful model of mobile medical units (MMUs), the number of clinics expanded from 106 in 2016 to 519 in 2022.

These clinics were established to provide quality primary healthcare services and to bridge the healthcare delivery gap between different regions and social classes. Operating on a zero-cost model, they offer free consultations, medications, diagnostics, and pathological tests.

Each Mohalla Clinic serves a population of 10,000 to 15,000 people, with an average of 70-100 patients visiting daily. Patients can access 212 types of free diagnostic tests conducted by empanelled laboratories and receive 109 free medications from the Delhi government's essential drug list.

These clinics are established either in portacabins or rented properties and operate from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Some clinics also offer extended hours, running a double shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each clinic is staffed by a team of four: a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, and an office assistant.

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