On Friday, two-year-old Khwahish woke up at 7 am with rashes on her arms, swollen cheeks and fever. At 9 am, her father rushed her to the mohalla clinic in Sangam Vihar’s Gupta Colony. An hour later, he took her home without a prescription or medicines as the doctor hadn’t arrived yet. “I will probably take her to another dispensary or hospital… or come back later when the doctor comes,” he said. Located in Asia’s largest unauthorised colony, the tiny basement clinic opened in 2016. Patients have to navigate through broken roads, knee-deep rain water and dangerous potholes to reach — but they say it’s still “better than nothing”. “Around 150 patients are treated here daily. It’s open from Monday to Saturday, between 9 am and 1 pm,” a staffer said.
At 10 am, seven-eight patients wait inside, and five stand outside due to lack of space. “In the summers, this place can be suffocating… it’s so small. The clinic should have been on the main road so it’s easily accessible,” complained 45-year-old Jehangir Khan, who is late to work.
At 10.45 am, the doctor arrives and four-year-old Yash, who has been waiting for an hour with his father Uday Pratap Singh, is first in line. “Ever since the mohalla clinic opened here, things have improved for the colony. For small ailments, we don’t have to go far away now… Medicines are also easily available,” said Singh. “It’s a neglected colony, just look at the roads… There is sewage everywhere. To get out of here is a task… It’s not possible to be punctual, so I understand why the doctor is late.”
The three-storey house from which the clinic runs is a rented accommodation. Babita (36), who owns the house, said the “rent is Rs 5,000 a month”.
In the clinic hangs a list of 212 free tests available to patients, which are outsourced to other centres. For 22-year-old Rashmi, who is pregnant, help has come in the form of these “free tests and the caring didi who assists the doctor”. “I got my report today. Didi told me how regularly I should get a check-up done, and insists I take care of myself… I am very thin, so she worries,” she said.
According to a staff member, “close to 250 patients come to the clinic every day during a dengue, malaria outbreak in the city”. That’s when the need for a bigger space arises again. “Last year, due to the suffocation, two-three patients fainted every day. We are working with what we have,” the staffer said.