The Delhi government will on a pilot basis introduce pollution clinics at all major hospitals under its jurisdiction in December to cater to patients whose illness has been triggered by the poor air quality in the Capital during the winter, health department officials aware of the matter said on Wednesday.
“This has been an area that we have been working on for a while. While the government is working towards controlling the pollution levels, we also want to prepare our healthcare infrastructure for the pollution months, since this is a time when we see a rise in the load of patients coming in with respiratory illnesses and other problems triggered by the poor air quality,” said a senior Delhi government official.
Every winter, Delhi’s air quality deteriorates, on some days to dangerous levels, owing to stubble fires, emissions from Diwali cracker and the Capital’s own local sources. The low temperatures and the calm winds also aggravate the situation by holding the pollutants closer to the surface and slowing down dispersion of particles.
The health official said these pollution centres, like the government’s fever clinics, will have dedicated staff and resources, adding that the pilot project will also be used to gather data on the health burden of pollution on Delhi’s residents.
A second official said that the pollution clinics are likely to be opened at Lok Nayak Hospital — the largest state-run hospital — and at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital before being expanded to other government facilities.
“Staff will be trained and resources will be set aside for cases where the cause of disease or allergies can be traced to the rising pollution in the air. These cases tend to rise especially during the stubble burning season in Punjab and Haryana,” said the official.
The overall initiative of dedicated pollution clinics is mandated under the Centre’s National Programme for Climate Change and Human Health’s (NPCCHH) health adaptation action plan—on similar lines as the heat action plan—that details steps to develop infrastructure and train manpower in hospitals, identify vulnerable people and pollution hotspots to control health complications arising from deteriorating air quality especially during the winter months.