Clinic at your doorstep

May 26, 2024

The Punjab government recently launched Clinic on Wheels, a project that is designed to make healthcare accessible for underserved areas

It’s a pickup van which carries medicines, medical equipment and staff. — Photos by the author
It’s a pickup van which carries medicines, medical equipment and staff. — Photos by the author


n Thursday afternoon, when the weather app on your mobile phone showed the temperatures to be touching 43 degrees Celsius — which “felt like 45 degrees” — a crew of five medics sat in a dingy room of a house in Roranwala village, in Askari XI, waiting for their patients to arrive.

This crew of five medics — namely, Dr Asma Rauf; Muhammad Azeem, a dispenser; Raza Mustafa, the vaccinator; Sheeza Hanif, a midwife; and Faiza Gul, an LHV — together with a driver, were there as part of the Punjab government’s freshly launched Clinic on Wheels project which aims to provide essential medical services to patients in underserved areas. The project is managed by the District Health Office.

“We have examined 200-odd patients since morning,” said Dr Rauf. “A majority of them were children and pregnant women. We provided them with medicines and supplements that they required. Besides, we referred two of the patients to a nearby health facility on account of their serious condition.”

A day prior, they were in the Kamahan locality in Nishtar Town. “In such scorching heat, when the World Health Organisation has advised people to minimise their sun exposure, we are out, doing our duty,” remarked a crew member.

The residents of Roranwala village had mixed feelings about the mobile clinic. This scribe asked a dozen people about their opinion; three of them were completely unaware of the project, the rest said they had heard about a doctor giving away free medicines in the area.

As no union council in Lahore is without a slum area, the Punjab government launched this programme in order to make healthcare accessible for neglected localities. Rizwana Arshad, the District Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, said that after meticulous micro-planning, the deputy district health officers had identified slum areas where health facilities were non-existent. This led to the deployment of 10 mobile clinic teams, each consisting of a doctor, a lady health visitor, a dispenser, a vaccinator and a driver.

It’s a pickup van that carries medicines, medical equipment and staff. The van, however, cannot accommodate more than five people. It , certainly cannot serve as a clinic. That is why every time the teams need to rent out a place where they set up their makeshift clinic. Currently, the programme boasts 10 vans and three ambulances which are equipped to provide a range of services, including diagnostic services such as essential medical tests, ultrasound, blood screening and lab tests.

The treatment offered by the clinic includes medications for various conditions such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and cardiac issues. Additionally, vaccination services, including routine vaccination and vaccination campaigns, are offered. Malaria treatment, diabetes treatment and general OPD services are among other features of the programme.

The Clinic on Wheels also offers healthcare services for the mother and child, obstetric services (antenatal and postnatal) and family planning measures, besides outreach activities of LHWs and school health and nutrition supervisors. In the case of an emergency, the clinics offer emergency and trauma first-aid services, including for road accidents. If a patient is in labour and referring them to another facility could endanger their lives, the clinics are equipped to provide for normal delivery/ SVD services.

The project, managed by the District Health Office, aims to provide essential medical services to underserved areas.
The project, managed by the District Health Office, aims to provide essential medical services to underserved areas.

The van can’t accommodate more than five people, and it certainly cannot serve as a clinic. That is why every time the teams need to rent out a place where they can set up their makeshift clinic.

“The focus is not only on treating illnesses but also on preventive care,” said Arshad. “All this makes these clinics a crucial component of the public health infrastructure in Lahore.”


The project has some key objectives, but it seems that not much homework has been done to make the programme a great success. For one thing, it lacks a good model for staff. When Dr Rauf, who works at a public health facility in Township, boards the Clinic on Wheels van, her patients whom she left behind are likely to suffer.

Dr Farrukh Amin, the district coordinator of Integrated Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health, who’s been appointed as the coordinator of Clinic on Wheels, has to remain in the field most of the day to supervise the programme.

Since the programme is in its infancy, its impact on permanent healthcare facilities is yet to be gauged. However, government circles say the programme will lessen the burden on permanent facilities.

Another issue the teams face is the lack of pick-and-drop service for them. LHW Faiza Gul had to travel 30 km from her home in Dharampura to a place in Roranawal village that she found difficult to navigate. She demands travelling allowance in case the government can’t provide them pick-and-drop.

Field coordinator Siddique Saeed says the department cannot offer the service to each and every member, but if all members gather at a designated point, they could be picked up and transported to the field location. The suggestion is clearly not workable since the team members come from different parts of the city, and a designated meeting point is always an issue.

Dr Zain Bhatti, former adviser to the CM on health, calls the project a “joke.” He says that at a time when permanent health facilities lack infrastructure, a better option would have been to improve the infrastructure and conditions of territorial health facilities, such as basic health units and rural health centres.

He says that Roranwala is hardly three kilometres from the Lidhar Basic Health Unit. If the government wanted to overcome health challenges of Roranwala village, it had better upgrade the Lidhar BHU, ensure permanent doctors and well-equipped labour rooms.

Ahsan Malik is a media veteran interested in politics, consumer rights and entrepreneurship

Clinic at your doorstep