A Public-funded Mohalla Clinic in Ujjain Saved Nearly 1,000 COVID-19 Patients; Each Paid Rs 10
Bhopal: A 55-year-old Padmavati Devi (name changed) was down with a high temperature and severe body ache when the country was under lockdown to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak in May 2020. Her children gave her paracetamol, but her condition deteriorated. Her oxygen level was also dropping rapidly. Left without options, the worried children rushed her to a private hospital in Ujjain where she could not get a bed.
The panicked children, on the suggestions of a doctor, took her to a public-funded Mohalla clinic located in Court Mohalla Chouraha in Ujjain. The clinic was started in May 2020 when COVID-19 was ravaging India, and hospitals and medical stores were shut across the city.
The Mohalla clinic, which is metres away from the Mahakaleshwar Temple --a Hindu pilgrimage Ujjain is known for, demanded Rs 10 as a registration fee when they brought Devi to the clinic. Within an hour, doctors confirmed her COVID-19 positive report, and offered a bed equipped with oxygen and gave free medicines. They ensured a 24-hour doctor facility.
After a week of proper treatment and care at the Mohalla clinic, Devi's oxygen level began to improve. She was discharged a week later after doctors confirmed her recovery.
Like Padmavati Devi, Mohalla Clinic saved the lives of close to 1000 COVID-19 patients, including over 200 critical ones in both waves of the pandemic. It happened when the country was gasping in the second wave of COVID-19 and patients were dying outside the hospital owing to the unavailability of beds and oxygen cylinders.
The clinic, which was set up a year ago with a half dozen junior doctors, took two hotels, a private school and a deserted home on rent close to the clinic to cater to the demands of the COVID-19 patients in the deadly second wave. It happened when private hospitals were 'extorting' money to provide quarantine facilities and oxygen.
"After a month of the first COVID-19 lockdown, Ujjain was witnessing high numbers of patients, but all the private hospitals and Sanjeevani clinics were shut. The patients were hiding their illness to ward off visiting government hospitals where the chances of survival were dim. It's when we decided to open a Mohalla clinic with permission of the district collector," said Hafiz Ayyub, a 48-year-old social worker.
The public-funded clinic has been running under the banner of Hum Dum Foundation. It is an NGO managed by 21 Imams of Ujjain city and works in the fields of health, culture, education and the unity of society.
"During both COVID-19 waves, the clinic treated 734 covid infected patients as well as 174 those patients who came to the clinic in a critical condition," said Ayyub. He added that the clinic not only gets support from the community but also from Ujjain district collector Ashish Singh and civil societies that provide free oxygen cylinders, small ventilators, and concentrators in times of despair.
Pooja Bhandri, a government doctor, who served two months at the clinic, recalled, "Over 400 patients were visiting OPD every day majorly from Ratlam, Nagda, Jhabua, Agar Malwa, Shajapur, Indore and other nearby cities. They get not only free treatment but also free medicines. The patients from the marginalised background were given free oxygen as well as beds and free medicines."
She added, "It's important to mention that the clinic did not report any death either of COVID or other illness when government mortuaries and crematories were running out of space."
Now, COVID-19 infections have receded, but the Mohalla clinic opens at 10 am every day till 11 pm, and eight specialist doctors (general physician, gynaecologist, dermatologist, paediatrician and others) treat the patients by charging Rs 20 as a registration fee.
"The clinic offers all kinds of tests at just half the market rate," said an employee of the clinic.
Dr Vasudev Sharma and Dr Rizwan Uddin are among the two senior doctors who treat patients free of cost at the clinic; The former is a well-known child specialist doctor of the city, while the latter is an MBBS doctor who worked at Ranbaxy pharmaceutical company and is a fellow of the Royal Society London.
Dr Sharma, who has been visiting the clinic for almost a year, told NewsClick, "At a time when health facilities are becoming exclusive for the rich, the clinic offers the best treatment to marginalised
patients at just Rs 20. We need to replicate this model across the state to make healthcare services affordable for the BPL card holders."
Sharma, who spends two-three hours daily at the clinic, sees between 25-35 patients daily, said, "It gives me immense satisfaction when patients from the marginalised classes get quality treatment at the clinic, and in return, they give countless prayers. I came to the clinic by word of mouth, and after visiting, I showed my willingness to work."
Just like Sharma, Dr Rizwan Uddin says his empathy towards the marginalised brought him to the clinic. Speaking to NewsClick, he said, "I spent my career at Ranbaxy and didn't get a chance to work for the marginalised as a doctor, which was the root cause of opting for this profession."
Dr Rizwan Uddin spends three-four hours daily at the clinic. "After visiting the clinic, I decided to offer my services at the clinic as majority of the patients are BPL cardholders who can't afford the private hospital bills," he said.
Since Ujjain is a key pilgrimage for Hindu devotees, the majority of the patients pouring in at the clinic post-COVID are devotees who came to visit Mahakal Temple and fell ill.
"Since Ujjain is a pilgrimage, we have put up pamphlets of the clinic on the notice boards of hotels, Dharamshalas and popular shops. We also send doctors within the city if the patient is unable to visit
the clinic," said Ayyub, adding that the NGO is planning to introduce similar clinics in other parts of the city with the support of the district administration.
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