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‘Even America is Learning from Kejriwal’s Mohalla Clinics’ – Really? See What the Experts Say About Delhi’s Healthcare

Arvind Kejriwal Mohalla Clinics

Vivek Wadhwa, a Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Mellon University took to Twitter today to complain about misappropriation of his 2016 Washington Post piece about Delhi’s healthcare by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In his tweet, he strongly objected to ‘misrepresentation of my Washington Post article, and…false claims about Mohalla/People Clinics.”

He was not alone in expressing his disgust at the claims of AAP. Replying to this tweet, former advisor to Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendra Jain, Dr. Munish Raizada, who also heads a movement demanding funding transparency from AAP, joined in, calling the government’s fakery “despicable.”

Delhi Healthcare Celebrated By Washington Post. Or Was It?

When the Delhi government had announced its promise to start Mohalla clinics, there was scepticism as well as interest generated among healthcare professionals and people. Assuming power in 2015, AAP launched a few clinics, and publicized them heavily among professionals and public and healthcare policy wonks. One such discussion was undertaken by Vivek Wadhwa, which was published in 2016.

In the article that had reported on innovative healthcare, Mr. Wadhwa shared his experience about visiting a Mohalla clinics. Diagnosis, including the medical tests, were taking place in 15 minutes at one model clinic in Peeragarhi Relief Camp in New Delhi, India. The entire process was automated — from check-in, to retrieval of medical records, to testing and analysis and ambulance dispatch. Hospital to which the case patient was taken also received medical records electronically.

However, the Washington Post story was not about the AAP mohalla clinic. Rather, it was about the sophisticated medical device called Swasthya Slate being used by the model clinic that made the instant diagnosis possible. This handheld device can perform 33 common medical tests including blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, blood haemoglobin, urine protein and glucose, even malaria, dengue, hepatitis, HIV, and typhoid within minutes, and instantly uploads data to a cloud-based medical-record management system that can be accessed by the patient, and was already in use in Jammu and Kashmir, while a version was  being deployed in Peru.

Mohalla Clinic – Hotbed Of Rampant Corruption

By 2017, 110 Mohalla clinics were operational. However, they were anything but the experience that Mr. Wadhwa had reported on. As per a study done by the Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC), Mohalla Clinics in Delhi were mostly found to be closed, had no inpatient facility or emergency and new-born facilities that a Primary Urban Health Centre (PUHC) is supposed to have. Also, the facility was maintaining records manually. Further,

Manual OPD records have certainly raised suspicions. A Vigilance Department letter in February 2017 unearthed serious corrupt practices ongoing in the clinics. As per the Vigilance Department of Delhi, doctors were prescribing useless medications to make patient come back, since the doctors earned money from these visits. Further, false patient entries were being carried out by doctors in these clinics to earn more. One doctor living in the north-west district of the Capital had earned ₹1.8 lakh per month, which averaged to treating one patient per minute. In a written complaint to the Department, Mohalla Clinics were treating 533 patients per day in just four hours, averaging to two patients per minute. “Everyone in the health department knows this, but are doing nothing,” the Vigilance Department had noted in its letter.

Former AAP Advisor Had Questioned Need For Mohalla Clinics

Dr. Munish Raizada, who has been leading a campaign against corruption and malpractices within AAP had in fact in 2017 questioned the very need for Mohalla clinics. In a statement given in April 2017, Dr. Raizada noted that Delhi already had 30 hospitals and over 600 PUHCs, which should have been run efficiently within the same budget that was allocated to Mohalla Clinics.

We had highlighted in an earlier report how 91 dispensaries had been closed down by 2017, and the government has focused entirely on Mohalla Clinics against the promised PUHCs. In fact, PPRC had pointed out that Mohalla Clinics are not a substitute, or match the standards of a PUHC, and were more like Health Sub- Centres in an urban set up.

Further, Delhi government has added only 390 beds in five years in all of its hospitals against a promise of 30,000 beds. A Delhi Dialogue Commission ‘performance report’ on healthcare in Delhi reveals that the Delhi government is behind schedule on adding another 3,500 beds in five new government hospitals. A report by the Expert Committee of Delhi High Court in December 2019 also found healthcare in Delhi in a poor state, with expensive medical equipment costing crores lying unutilised and over occupancy of wards among other issues. Even in the Mohalla clinics, doctors have been referring people to other facilities unlike the sophisticated technology utilization told to Mr. Wadhwa.

Arvind Kejriwal’s claims on healthcare are mostly hype and little substance, as seen time and again. The mohalla clinics for the city’s crippling healthcare are like band-aid for a cancer. The sooner the correct treatment is given, the better it shall be for Delhi.