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K’taka health minister first praises Delhi’s Mohalla Clinic initiative, then calls it ‘overhyped’

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NEW DELHI, Aug 4 (PTI): Hours after praising the AAP government’s Mohalla Clinic initiative, Karnataka Health Minister and Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao on Friday said it is “overhyped” and he was left “disappointed” after a visit to one such facility.

There was no immediate reaction from the Arvind Kejriwal government on the Karnataka minister’s change of statement. The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are members of the opposition INDIA bloc.

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On Friday, Rao visited an ‘Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic’ at Panchsheel Park here. He was accompanied by Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj and Karnataka Bhavan medical officer Karthik, according to an official statement.

Almost four hours after praising the mohalla clinic initiative, Gundu Rao made a U-turn.

“Visited a mohalla clinic in Delhi with hardly any people there. Our clinics in Karnataka have more facilities, including a laboratory, to do immediate tests for patients,” the Congress leader tweeted. “I guess it is overhyped and I came back feeling disappointed,” he said on Twitter.

During the visit, the Karnataka minister saw the facilities at the mohalla clinic and enquired about the welfare of staffers.

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The Delhi government’s mohalla clinic is a neighbourhood facility for providing free primary healthcare to residents. The mohalla clinic programme is among the flagship initiatives of the Arvind Kejriwal government to boost the primary healthcare system in Delhi.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to the Panchsheel Park mohalla clinic, Rao had praised the mohalla clinic model and said that it is functioning “very well”.

“I had heard a lot about mohalla clinics and I wanted to see them personally. I wanted to discuss how they (AAP government) are implementing the health policies,” he had told reporters.

“In southern states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, health has always been a priority.

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Every state has got something good that we can learn from. We have something similar (to mohalla clinics)… we have ‘namma clinics’. We wanted to see how we can improve our system. I saw the mohalla clinic and it is functioning very well People are also appreciating it,” he had said.

The Congress minister was also asked whether this visit was planned since they are allies now, to which he said this is a “department” matter and not a “political” one.

“Alliance is a different issue and a political one. We will go to other states. Rajasthan has a health policy. It can be a BJP state also (where we can visit). That is the concept of federalism,” he said.

Slamming the BJP-led Centre, he said that it “is creating a situation where this approach of working together is getting lost”.

“They look at opposition-ruled states as enemies. Politically they give trouble and they even trouble the state governments. The (services) ordinance is overruling people’s issues. If you weaken an elected government it weakens democracy. Exchange of views is something that is good and should be done always. I have also extended invitation to Delhi health minister to see what is being done on various fronts (in Karnataka),” he told reporters.

Bharadwaj said his Karnataka counterpart told him about how good the hospitals are in the southern state. “We will also visit his state. All states should learn from each other. I am very happy that they have come here,” he said.

Earlier in the day, quote-tweeting Bharadwaj’s tweets on Gundu Rao’s visit, Kejriwal had said Delhi will learn from the good work done by the Karnataka government.

“Karnataka health minister visits Delhi mohalla clinics. We welcome him and his team. We all have to learn from each other. Delhi will also learn from the good work done by Karnataka govt,” he had tweeted.

Currently, there are more than 500 mohalla clinics in the national capital that offer free primary healthcare services to patients, including 212 different types of medical tests.

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