Alok Kumar (43) took the Metro from Pitampura to reach Connaught place at about 11 am Tuesday. Exiting at gate number six near Palika Bazaar, he went straight to a porta cabin where a team from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) is conducting free lung function tests.
He had come here on Monday as well, but the team had packed up and left by then. With the number of people turning up for the tests increasing every day, supplies at the centre run out by 1.30 pm. Doctors have no option but to request patients to come the next day.
While most of the people taking the test are shoppers or office-goers in the area, many such as Kumar are taking the effort to come after reading about the free test in the newspaper.
“I work in a bank. I worked till afternoon and took the rest of the day off to come for the test, but the doctors had left by then. So today, I came early,” said Kumar.
He added, “I wanted to get this test done especially because I am diligently following this policy. Even if it means making an extra trip, I do not mind.”
With a floating population coming in for testing at this centre, doctors said the rate of impaired lung function varies each day. So far, the rate is between 36.7 and 56 per cent. On Tuesday, close to 41 per cent patients were found to have problem with their lung function at the CP centre.
Out of 268 patients tested across the city Tuesday, 92 people were found to have poor lung function – a rate of 38.4 per cent.
“This data has to be analysed based on population, gender and profession. But what it does tell us is that there is definitely a problem in lung function, which has to do something with the air quality,” said Dr Suneela Garg, professor of community medicine at MAMC.
A team of four resident doctors conduct the tests at Rajiv Chowk. They sit around a large table which has been squeezed into the cabin. First, they take a history of each person and ask them, in particular, about their smoking history, outdoor activities, and how long they have lived in Delhi.
A technician sits in an adjoining chair with the spirometer, telling patients how to blow in and out, while the equipment records their rate of inhalation and exhalation.
At about noon, an argument breaks out after a group of senior citizens who have come from East Delhi for the tests are told they do not meet the inclusion criteria.
Only patients between the age of 18-50 years and those who have been citizens of Delhi for at least five years can undergo the test. Those tested, should also not have any prior history of respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
An angry Vinod Kumar (59) argues with doctors, saying he came all the way from Gulabi Bagh for the tests.
“The banner does not mention any inclusion criteria and neither do the government advertisements. Why will young people who are anyway fit want to get themselves tested? It is old people like us who have been breathing the toxic air for so long who are affected,” he said.
The doctors tried to explain that the spirometry tests required people to undertake some exertion, and they did not have the facilities to manage them in case of complications.
Dr Garg said the senior citizens who had turned up for the tests in CP and in other centres were requested to get their tests done at the Lok Nayak hospital.