To reduce burden from the civic-run hospitals, the BMC has decided to begin 15 evening dispensaries, which will be functional from Monday onwards and remain open between 4pm and 11pm. Senior health officials said in view of a large number of patients, the proposal to start evening dispensaries was approved in the BMC standing committee meeting.
The patients’ footfall at the four civic-run hospital is nearly 50,000 in the outpatient department. And, most patients have to wait for a long time or revisit the facility, necessitating the opening of evening dispensaries.
“Starting evening dispensaries was a BMC’s much-awaited project. It will definitely benefit citizens. The project will start in two phases— in the first phase, 15 dispensaries will be opened and in phase 2, 35 dispensaries will be made functional,” said an official.
KEM hospital is the first government medical college in Maharashtra to start an evening OPD for patients from 4pm to 11pm to make health facility available to office-goers and unburden the hospital, which faces a huge rush in the morning.
The idea to start evening OPDs was driven by a constant demand to provide consultation during the evening hours when people are return to their home from work. Presently, the OPDs at the civic dispensaries remain open between 9am and 4pm, making them unusable for working professionals or daily-wagers, who are compelled to approach private physicians.
Senior health officials said a third-party agency has bagged the contract to provide doctors and attendants to run the OPDs on the BMC premises. “From 9am to 4pm BMC doctors will run the dispensary, after which doctors will be kept by the appointed agency from 4pm to 11pm. If it succeeds, such dispensaries will be opened and the scheme extended to all parts of Mumbai,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, the BMC executive health officer.
However, unlike the practice in regular OPDs, evening OPDs will only provide consultation and will not dispense medicines. A civic official said patients can come back the next day to collect free medicines. “Civic staffers who manage the dispensaries and medicine stock during the day will not be available in the evening. Hence, only consultation will be provided, inititally,” said the official.
Suresh Kakani, the additional municipal commissioner, said, “Based on the success of the 15 extended health facilities, a call would be taken to upscale the service.”
The largest municipal hospital attends to 4,500 patients daily with its daytime OPD timing stretching from 8am to noon. In the afternoon, the timing is 1.30pm to 3.30pm. “With evening OPD, we will reduce the burden on casualty department. Patients with even seasonal fever (viral) or cough can come to casualty ward in the evening. Now, the casualty ward will only cater to emergencies. The evening OPD will also suit office-goers,” said Dr Hemant Deshmukh, the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM) dean.
Its social work department in-charge Sangeeta Kasbekar said the evening OPD will benefit those who have to skip work in the morning and queue up in the OPD for doctor’s consultation.
Apart from the KEM hospital, BMC has also started evening OPD in Byculla and Wadala dispensaries. Further, the corporation plans to open up such evening dispensaries in more areas in a public private partnership (PPP) model.
“It may be the first medical college to run evening OPD. In rural areas, rural and district hospitals provide evening OPD from 4pm to 6pm, while primary health centers run for almost 24 hours,” said Dr Satish Pawar, in-charge of the National Rural Health Mission in Directorate of Health Education.
A very positive response is expected. Often, working people start taking medicines for common problems in the evening. But due to the closure of BMC dispensary, they are compelled to turn to private clinics. All the facilities for blood tests in BMC dispensaries have already started under the ‘Apali Chikitsa’, which has also increased the number of patients going to shops.