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Rehabilitation centres beg a reality check

Santhimandiram rehab centre, which is permitted to house only 73 people, was found to host 142 inmates, most of them elderly. Of the lot, 107 recently tested positive

Published: 15th September 2020 07:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2020 07:05 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 107 inmates of Santhimandiram, the psychosocial rehabilitation centre for destitute at Vembayam in the state capital, tested Covid-19 positive recently, causing a lot of concern. But this incident also exposed the tragic and inhuman treatment of its inmates by the authorities, making one question the functioning of many such rehabilitation centres across the state. 

 According to the health authorities, as per records, the rehab centre run by Santhimandiram Charitable Trust, which is one of the eight destitute homes in the district approved by the Social Justice Department, has the permission to accommodate up to 73 people. However, it was found that the home was crowded, with 142 inmates, mostly elderly, living under miserable and unhygienic conditions and only five toilets. 

Officials said that the eight institutions approved by the state government can accommodate only around 465 people, which is inadequate to meet the growing demand.  Dr Anil Kumar, superintendent of Mental Health Centre and deputy director of Health Services, who visited the institution after the outbreak, admitted the crowding issue at the institution. “We need to shift half of them to another location once they recover from Covid-19,” said Anil. 

He said that the only solution is to set up more facilities in the district. “Though we always try to reunite them with their families, approval must be given for more such institutions,” said Anil. At Santhimandiram, 119 people including staff, inmates, owner and neighbours were screened last week and 107 tested positive. Now 23 people have been hospitalised. 

“All of them are elderly with comorbidities. Fifty among them need psychiatric care and we have already started treatment. Some of the inmates are from other states. Many of them cannot recall their whereabouts. Now our only focus is to help them recover from the infection and minimise the fatalities,” said an official.

Advocate Thekkada Anil Kumar, health standing committee chairman of Vembayam panchayat, reiterated that the facility is unfit to accommodate so many people. “We came to know about the pathetic condition of the home only after the inmates tested Covid-19 positive. We have decided to take action against the institute once everyone is cured,” he said. 

The panchayat authorities have provided ambulance and vehicles to facilitate the transportation of the patients from the home if required. “Those with severe symptoms were moved to the General Hospital, Medical College Hospital and the CFLTC at Green Field Stadium,” he added. A senior official of the district administration said that the health authorities and Social Justice Department should take joint action against these institutes. 

“This institution is getting a grant from the Social Justice Department and those who live in this home are homeless or abandoned by their families. However, we have only limited facilities in the district to accommodate them and we cannot blame the institute fully as they are offering food and roof over their head for these people,” said the district administraton official. 



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