Ground Report: The hunt for Bengaluru's Namma Clinics | Azad Times

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Azad Times News Desk.

The Karnataka government had announced Namma Clinics for all 243 BBMP wards, modelled along the lines of Mohalla Clinics in Delhi to provide basic health care services to poor people in urban areas.

On February 7, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai inaugurated 108 Namma Clinics in Bengaluru, modelled along the lines of Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics (neighbourhood clinics) that provide basic health care services to underserved populations in urban areas. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)’s website lists 109 clinics in locations across the city. But for an average Bengaluru resident, finding the nearest Namma Clinic is not a straightforward task. A lack of awareness, combined with inadequate navigation directions, means that many people in need of the clinics’ services are unable to avail of them.  

TNM visited 14 Namma Clinics across Bengaluru to understand how local residents are taking to the clinics. While a few people who had visited the clinics heaped praise on the staff members and their services, many residents told this reporter that they were not even aware of the local Namma Clinic. 

Namma Clinics fall under the purview of the BBMP, and the BJP government in Karnataka had announced that they would be opened in all 243 BBMP wards in the city. Most Namma Clinics are located in government buildings such as BBMP ward offices. They are open from Monday to Saturday, between 9 am and 1.30 pm, and 2 pm to 4.30 pm. The doctors working at all 14 Namma Clinics visited by TNM said that on average, only 15 to 20 patients have been visiting their clinic each day. Most residents whom TNM spoke to said that they had not heard about Namma Clinics, and many of them confused them with the local primary health centres (PHCs) established under the National Health Mission (NHM). 

Tracking down Namma Clinics

To begin with, in many areas, it is difficult to even locate the nearest Namma Clinic. BBMP’s list of 109 clinics is not entirely accurate. For instance, as of Tuesday morning, the website mentioned a clinic located in MV Garden in Halasuru. However, when TNM visited the Google Maps location linked on the BBMP website, there was no Namma Clinic to be found anywhere on that particular stretch of road. Several residents TNM spoke to also said that they were unaware of such a clinic in the locality.  

Similarly, the website says the Kushal Nagar Namma Clinic is located across from Vinayaka Temple in P&T Colony, Venkateshpuram. When TNM visited the linked location in Venkateshpuram, many residents said they were unaware of any such clinic nearby. When provided with the address, they pointed to five different Vinayaka Temples in the neighbourhood, before this reporter stumbled upon a board pointing to P&T Colony and managed to locate the clinic.

Imtiyaz, whose general store is located less than 100 metres away from the Shanti Nagar Namma Clinic, was surprised when asked about it. “I had no idea that a clinic which provided free services was located so close to my shop," he said, adding that he would like to pay a visit for a check-up soon. 

Likewise, Arun Kumar, a Neelasandra resident, was unaware of the local Namma Clinic located right across from his house, on the premises of a government office complex. When asked if he knew of any BBMP or government clinic in the area, he gave directions to a nearby PHC. 

In the case of the Kacharakanahalli Namma Clinic, the BBMP website had earlier listed its address as ‘Rented Building Kacharkanahalli Village.’ It has since been changed to ‘Aaimata Temple Road, Kammanahalli.’ When this reporter met BBMP Special Commissioner (Health) Dr KV Trilok Chandra on Tuesday afternoon, he said that all Namma Clinics in the city were operational. “We are trying to raise awareness about the clinics through ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, social media and the press,” he said.

Old list of Namma Clinics on BBMP's website

Satisfactory services, short hours

A few people who were aware of the clinics and had visited them said they were very happy with the services. “Having a good, free government clinic on our street is very convenient for us women. Even if our children fall sick, we can get them treated here comfortably without having to shell out hundreds or thousands of rupees over travel and medical costs,” said Lata, a resident of Shantala Nagar. 

On the other hand, those who run businesses or otherwise have conventional working hours said that the clinics’ timings were an inconvenience. “It is a little inconvenient to close my shop and go to the clinic for minor health issues. It would be great if they extend the timings at least till 6 pm,” said Syed, a shop owner in Nagavara.

Meanwhile, some of the doctors working in the clinics complained about insufficient pay. Each Namma Clinic doctor earns Rs 47,000, while the lab technicians and nurses earn Rs 14,500 and Rs 15,000 respectively. Dr Trilok Chandra said that raising the salaries was beyond the scope of the BBMP, as they were set by the state government. 

Health services at Namma Clinics

During the inauguration of the first set of Namma Clinics in February, Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar had said that the initiative was meant to provide free primary health care to disadvantaged sections of society, particularly poor people living in slums and working for daily wages. 

Every Namma Clinic has a doctor or medical officer, a nurse, a lab technician, and a Group D non-medical employee. Each clinic is meant to serve a population ranging from 10,000 to 20,000. The clinics offer 12 free services, including pregnancy care, postnatal and neonatal care, management of infectious diseases, minor and common ailments, and diabetes and blood pressure management. Additionally, patients can also avail themselves of 14 types of pathology lab tests, teleconsultation services, and wellness activities at no cost.

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