After storming to power last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had listed affordable healthcare on top of its agenda. One part of the promise was to set up 500 neighbourhood clinics by March, 2016.
Less than two months short of the deadline, Delhi has only one is functioning in north-west Delhi.
Seen against the bigger context of the Arvind Kejriwal government’s stress on improving healthcare in the national Capital, this would be seen as a failure. For the record, the AAP government increased its healthcare budget to Rs 3138 crore for this fiscal, a 45% hike from the previous year.
Besides, the government had also set out to set up 500 more neighbourhood clinics by the end of this year taking their total number to 1,000. Also, it plans to set up 150 polyclinics, out of which two have started functioning.
The few neighbourhood centres – officially known as mohalla clinics – have already made their mark, bringing healthcare closer home.
The clinic at Peeragarhi, which has two doctors, caters to around 150 patients a day.
“I have diabetes and get my blood test done here every two or three months. I used to go to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, where I had to spend the whole day queuing up. Since this clinic opened last year, I haven’t gone to a hospital,” said Shoma Rani, 60.
Alka Chaudhary, one of the two doctors posted at the clinic, said besides people of the locality, patients from other localities too have started visiting the health centre.
In January, the clinic treated more than 4,000 patients.
“When we proposed the ideas of mohalla clinics, we had estimated that 80% of the patients visiting could be treated in the clinic , but the trial run in Peeragarhi shows that 90-95% people did not need referral to a larger hospital,” said Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain.
He added that tenders for more mohalla clinics have already been floated and around 150–200 clinics are expected to be opened within four months.
The AAP also managed to deliver on the essential drugs procurement front.
From February 1, all Delhi government hospitals have been asked to keep a three-month buffer stock of essential drugs and consumables to ensure that supplies do not run out.
The government also expanded the essential drugs list to 790 medicines from the 406 that were listed previously. All essential drugs are available free at Delhi hospitals, and doctors have been asked to strictly prescribe from within the list.
In its manifesto, the AAP government had promised to increase the bed strength in Delhi’s hospitals by 30,000, with 10,000 being added by the end of 2017. This year, the government added 1,700 beds during the dengue outbreak, but much of them lie unutilised due to shortage of staff.
Another 3,200 beds will be added to the existing 48,096 by the end of 2017 after hospitals being constructed in Burari, Ambedkar Nagar and Dwarka sector 9 become fully functional.
The government had also promised to add 4,000 maternity beds, of which 500 will be added across five hospitals in a couple of months. The current patient-bed ratio in Delhi is 2.71, whereas the WHO recommendation is 5 beds per 1,000 population.