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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Delhi mohalla clinics try social distancing, but flood of patients continues

A middle-aged woman wriggled her way through an iron gate bound by chains to enter a Mohalla Clinic in Northeast Delhi’s Trilokpuri. The entrance to the clinic has been shut. A doctor, a multi-task worker and a pharmacist have locked themselves inside the clinic, and speak to the patients from a window. The woman eventually […]

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi | Published: March 27, 2020 1:15:01 am
At the Mohalla Clinic in Northeast Delhi’s Trilokpuri, the only one which is open till 7 pm.

A middle-aged woman wriggled her way through an iron gate bound by chains to enter a Mohalla Clinic in Northeast Delhi’s Trilokpuri.

The entrance to the clinic has been shut. A doctor, a multi-task worker and a pharmacist have locked themselves inside the clinic, and speak to the patients from a window.

The woman eventually managed to get close to the window and told the doctor, “I have a headache, fever and cold. I may have coronavirus.” The doctor reassures her that she does not, and prescribes her some medicines. They take down her mobile number and details of her Aadhaar card, their only hope of tracking her.

Around 170 patients visited this Mohalla Clinic located at Trilokpuri’s Block 25. The only clinic which is open till 7 pm, it attracts patients from Trilokpuri, Kotla, Chilla village, and even the Yamuna floodplains.

On Wednesday, a 49-year-old doctor of a Mohalla Clinic in Mohanpuri area of Maujpur tested positive for COVID-19, after he examined a 38-year-old woman from Dilshad Garden who had returned from Saudi Arabia. The Shahdara Sub-Divisional Magistrate has asked all patients who visited the particular clinic to be under home quarantine.

At the Trilokpuri Mohalla Clinic, Dr Sanjeev Kumar, who is on the evening shift, insists social distancing is the key. He has got a full body safety suit, surgical gloves and a face mask for himself. The multi-task worker manages with gloves and a mask, while the pharmacist does not have either on while handing out medicines to patients.

Dr Sanjeev said the clinic has not seen any cases of coronavirus, though there have been scores of patients who complained of some symptoms. “We do not have a testing kit. When we see such symptoms, regular medicines are prescribed as per protocol. If at all we have such cases, they will be referred to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital. There have been some youngsters who said they have the symptoms. There is no community transmission yet.”

Outside the clinic, patients have crowded the window. Circles marked with chalk designating waiting spots have vanished as toddlers wait with their mothers, licking iron beams meant to support patients.

Most of the patients have come with skin infections, body pain or cold.

Lalmani (43), a domestic worker, has come down with cough and body pain. She barely has strength left in her to hold her medicines, which slip from her fingers and fall to the ground.

Right behind her, Laxmi (34) has come with her son. Both are down with fever, and with several hospitals shutting down OPDs, there is no other place to go. “This Mohalla Clinic is our only hope,” she said.

At one point, a middle-aged man sneezes, flaring tempers. “Cover your mouth,” a patient snaps. Another says, “This is how a doctor got the virus. Now hundreds are infected.”

Many women are accompanied by their children, some of them infants. None have a face mask, and instead, the women cover their toddlers’ faces with their clothes. One of them, Ruksana, said: “I am a single mother with no income. My brother gave me some money. Thanks to that, I have some ration. But I don’t have money left for a hand sanitiser and a mask.”

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