Doctors Day: Meet docs in old Delhi who treat poor free of cost


File Photo of Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh in Delhi. (Courtesy: Max Hospital).

File Photo of Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh in Delhi. (Courtesy: Max Hospital) Representational Image

From running street clinics to giving free-of-cost treatment to poor and homeless, many doctors in old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area are going beyond their line of duty to serve people.

A team of three doctors set up a street clinic near the Baptist Church every morning to tend to the poor before going to their work.

“I come here for two hours in the morning, tend to those with wounds and then go for my job at a charitable dispensary in Karol Bagh,” said Tahir Hussein, one of the doctors who volunteers every day.

The Walled City is home to many needy, including rickshaw-pullers and rag-pickers, who spend their daily lives on streets and pavements and do not have access to proper medical care.

National Doctors Day is marked today across the country to recognise the contributions of physicians to individual lives and communities.

In India, it commemorates the legacy of legendary doctor and former West Bengal chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy, who was born on this day in 1882.

The street clinic, run for the last few years in Chandni Chowk, put spotlight on doctors who have been engaging in philanthropic endeavours to provide healthcare and better quality of life to the poor.

The facility in old Delhi is not run by any formal organisation or platform and three doctors and an army officer have come together to run this humble collective.

The clinic has surgical equipment, medicine and sterilising agents to deal with varying degrees of injuries, besides treating diseases, said Premjit Singh Panesar, a member of the collective.

Panesar, an army officer serving in Mathura, said, his father had started the initiative and, in every two weeks, he comes to old Delhi to check on the clinic.

“Since the poor and destitute cannot afford doctors and clinics, we bring the doctors and clinics to them, free of cost. The volunteering doctors attend to all types of cases,” he told PTI.

The Delhi Tuberculosis Association, an NGO, also offers services to people in this part of the capital city by setting up mobile testing units.

We have vans which carry equipment and we station them in the Chandni Chowk area. Our doctors run tests for people living on footpath, for tuberculosis, diabetes and HIV (AIDS). They also give out nutritional food like eggs, along with medicine to aid the treatment. The medicine is provided by the government, we do tests for free,” said S M Govil, Secretary General of the Association.

The doctors serving with the association are volunteers, most of whom have served in the government sector and are now retired. They receive help from the government in the form of HIV testing kits and tuberculosis medication, he said.

India has less than one doctor for every 1,000 population which is less than the World Health Organisation standard, according the information shared by the government in Lok Sabha in July last year.

The WHO prescribes a doctor population ratio of 1:1000.

Leena Sharma, a homeopathic practitioner in Nangloi, said, she treats patients for free on a daily basis.

As doctors, it is our moral and ethical responsibility to make wellness as accessible to people as possible. Doctors make a big impact on lives of those who are sick and cannot afford treatment,” Sharma said.

The Jain Bird Hospital in Chandni Chowk treats injured birds, not only free-of-cost, but also ensures they are released back into their habitat post-treatment.

“Many people, who care for birds, bring them with different kinds of injuries to our hospital. We treat them, nurse them and then release them back into their habitats,” said a veterinarian who works at the hospital.

On an average, 50-60 birds are admitted to the hospital daily and it tends to almost an equal number of birds every day, he said.