Despite guidelines, few medical teams visit night shelters

Though medical teams are supposed to visit shelter homes every week, in reality the situation is quite different, said NGOs.

Under the mobile health scheme, the chief district medical officers (CDMOs) are required to conduct check-ups shelter home inmates twice a week.

According to NGOs running shelter homes under the regulation of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), the medical check-ups are rare and not as mandated by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS). In fact, doctors are not part of the medical team most of the time, NGO representatives said.

Meanwhile, the DHS said expansion plans are currently underway to so that inmates at all night shelters in the city can undergo routine check-ups.

“There are times when some shelter homes are not covered. With expansion in the scheme, all shelter homes will be covered,” said Dr K S Baghotia, Additional Director, Mobile Health Scheme.

A mobile medical team should comprise one doctor, one pharmacist and one nursing orderly. Also, such a unit should be functional from 5 pm to 11 pm, and “detailed medical examination” of the inmates should be conducted, state the DHS guidelines. Ideally, visits should be intensified during winter, said a senior DHS official.However, the rules are not followed.

“The mobile units arrive mostly with paramedic staff and no doctors. They drop the medicines and sign the register. Usually, the staff do not even get down from their vehicle. Moreover, these units come between 5.30 pm and 6 pm when inmates are usually at work,” said Dashrath Kumar, supervisor of a shelter home run by DAV Educational & Welfare Society.

But clearly, such guidelines are not implemented by the DHS. Also, such visits are not routinely conducted. “There are gaps in the scheme. Doctors come once in a while. Mostly it happens that medicines are dropped at the shelter homes,” said an official of Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM).    

A supervisor at a shelter home run by Aakansha Samiti said that recently there was a visit after a “lapse of four months”. There is an immediate need to upgrade the medicine stock for the homeless and run programmes for mass screening of the homeless.

“Most of the time there are no multi-vitamins in their stock. For the homeless, providing vitamins is a must. Also, the homeless are at a higher risk of suffering from communicable diseases. There should be mass screening programmes by the government,” said Saket Mani, Director, Khushi Centre for Rehabilitation and Research which is running shelter homes in north Delhi.

Emergency medical care for the inmates of shelter homes is another aspect that the government should seriously take up, he added.

Currently, seven teams have been deputed to cover the night shelters on a rotational basis and weekly reports have been sought after Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung called for a review of the preparedness of the night shelters with the onset of winter. 

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