Bogged down by red tape in land acquisition, the Delhi government has only managed to give its people 302 mohalla clinics against the promised 1,000 after being in power for close to five years.
However, the Arvind Kejriwal government is confident that it will fulfil its promise before the end of its tenure.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had promised 1,000 clinics to the national capital soon after it came back to power in 2015, following a 49-day government in 2013-14.
The Delhi government's affordable health initiative has helped people by providing health facilities at almost their doorstep, making healthcare more accessible to people.
The response from the people has been so encouraging that at least 30 Mohalla Clinics in the city are running double shifts.
"While the clinics are working from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., those with double shifts are running between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 1 p.m and 7 p.m. with two different sets of staff members, including doctors," a Health Department official said.
The clinics, functional on all days except Sunday, provide services like basic medical care for common illnesses like fever, diarrhoea, skin problems, respiratory problems, first aid for injuries and burns, dressing and management of minor wounds and referral services. It also allows 212 types of lab tests by the empanelled laboratories.
The clinics are also providing medicine and doctors free of cost to the patients.
Kejriwal had said the government aims to provide free healthcare for all Delhiites within 1 km radius, adding that they are close to achieving this goal.
He has assured that Delhi will get hundred more mohalla clinics by November and over the next two and a half months about two hundred more mohalla clinics would be ready to launch.
However, the journey to touch the 300-mark was not easy. Initially, the project got delayed as the AAP government and the Lt. Governor's office were at loggerheads over the clearance of the Mohalla Clinics, among various other flagship projects of the party.
While, soon after coming to power, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promised 1,000 clinics with December 2016 as the deadline, it was only in September 2017 that the Lt. Governor gave his nod to the project.
Until July 4, 2018, the Delhi Cabinet had to take the approval from the Lt. Governor for all its decisions. It was only after the July 4 verdict of the Supreme Court that the Delhi Cabinet got autonomous decision-making power.
However, even after the Lt. Governor's approval, the project could not fully take off due to non-availability of land, with various landowning agencies, including the DDA, not willing to provide land for the clinics.
The Health Department official added that land identification and finalisation have been a major issue before it, as land is not under the Delhi government.
"Land acquisition is taking most of the time, and there is no knowing how long it will take. The other agencies were not very keen on giving us the land for clinics. The process is that as soon as we are able to identify and finalise the land, the construction part is initiated," the official said.
However, after facing issues of acquiring land, the government had started hiring premises for the opening of the Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics. Now, the norms of providing land for Mohalla Clinics on rent have been simplified even further.
"Earlier permission for construction was granted only when there was a 60 sq m space available, with two toilets. This has now been relaxed to meet a standard of just 40 sq m and one toilet. People have also come forward to support Mohalla clinics pro bono. At 10 places in Delhi, people have given free land for Mohalla clinics," the health official informed.
The Mohalla Clinic project has been praised by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former Director-General of World Health Organisation Gro Harlem Brundtland, with various world leaders seeing it as a move towards achieving better health coverage.
Along with another former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Brundtland visited one of the clinics last year and both were "deeply impressed."
Before the AAP came to power, the Delhi government was providing healthcare services through primary, secondary and tertiary facilities out of which primary care was delivered through dispensaries, secondary health care through multi-speciality hospitals and tertiary health care services through super-speciality hospitals.
There has been a paradigm shift in reorganising of health care services in Delhi after the AAP came to power in order to fill the gaps in services.
Now the Delhi government provides a four-tier health care delivery system, with Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics for primary health care, multi-speciality polyclinics for secondary health care in the form of OPD consultation by specialist doctors including diagnostics, multi-speciality Hospitals for IPD care (earlier called secondary level hospital) and super-speciality hospitals (earlier called tertiary level hospital).
The health services provided by the Delhi government are not only catering to Delhi, citizens but also to the population from neighbouring, as well as distant, states.