Mail Today has found that the free clinics started by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi lack trained medical staff for providing medicines.
The project aims to lighten the load on ageing state-run hospitals faces allegations of irregularities.
In gross violation of norms, the government has employed auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs) to work as pharmacists, or helpers, in the so-called ‘mohalla clinics’.
ANMs are the foot soldiers of the public health system and are not authorised to dispense medicines.
As part of a pilot programme, the AAP administration has opened 105 mohalla clinics across Delhi and promised about 1,000 by March 31, boasting innovative diagnostic technology and sharply dressed doctors.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal kicked off the primary healthcare initiative in 2015.
Mail Today visited a number of these neighbourhood clinics, including the ones in areas such as Okhla, Chhatarpur and Laxmi Nagar.
In some of them, doctors, ANMs and helpers were dealing with patients but there were no pharmacists.
The ANMs registered the patients and dispensed medicines to them. According to health department officials, ANMs carry out door-to-door visits for vaccination of children, counselling of pregnant women and creating general awareness on health and nutrition.
‘In the morning hours, when the ANMs earlier visited homes, they now sit in the mohalla clinics,’ said a health department official.
The female health workers have to stay in the medical centres from 9am till 1pm.
They go for home visits in the afternoon.
Mail Today attempted to contact Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain and a government spokesperson, but they were not available despite repeated attempts.
Officials say by assigning ANMs the work of pharmacists, the administration is putting people’s lives at risk.
The aggrieved female health workers have also approached the directorate of health services against deployment in the mohalla clinics.
Mail Today has a copy of one such online complaint. ‘An ANM’s job is confined to field outreach, maternal and child health along with family planning services, health and nutrition education, efforts for maintaining environmental sanitation, immunisation for the control of communicable diseases, treatment of minor injuries, and first aid in emergencies and disasters.
‘But mentioned works are not allowed to us in mohalla clinics,’ it reads, adding that the administration pressures and harasses them to do pharmacy work.
Archna Mudgal, registrar-cum-secretary of the Pharmacy Council of India, in a letter to the Delhi government and union health secretary has pointed out that dispensing of medicines by a person other than a registered pharmacist is in violation of the provisions of the Pharmacy Act, 1948 and the Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015.
Delhi government data released in August last year said nearly eight lakh patients were treated in five months at the 105 mohalla clinics that provide consultation, 110 free essential drugs, immunisation for children, 212 basic tests and counselling.
Results of most of the tests are known within two minutes and are uploaded onto an IT cloud for access by patients and their doctors on their smart phones and the health centres’ Swasthya tablets.
However, the project has hit several snags. The ruling AAP identified 300 schools, where it wanted to establish the mohalla clinics.
But the-then L-G, Najeeb Jung, returned that file to the government, asking that the plan be reworked. Jung also transferred senior bureaucrat Dr Tarun Seem, who was in-charge of the healthcare project.
Both the BJP and Congress have made allegations of corruption and nepotism in the initiative.