THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thousands of mentally-ill patients lodged in psycho-social rehabilitation centres across the state are facing neglect at the hands of government institutions. Allegations are rife that government institutions and outlets are denying them treatment and necessary medicines because these centres are run by NGOs and without a license from the mental health authority.
This is a blatant violation of patients’ rights, said Fr George Joshua, a Kerala state mental health authority member. “If a patient becomes violent and we take them to the hospital, they keep asking a hundred questions and deny us admission or any immediate treatment. The people residing at these centres are voiceless and homeless. The government is neglecting them, and this is unfortunate,” said Fr George. He had recently brought the matter to the attention of Health Minister Veena George.
“Government institutions cannot deny a patient treatment just because he is living at a charity home. The hospitals are asking us to approach district mental health offices for medicine. When we go there, they tell us that medicines cannot be given to institutions without a license,” he said. Though the minister had promised to address the issue, nothing has been done yet, he said.
P J Johny of Jyothi Nivas Charitable Society in Wayanad said that patients are not getting care as mandated by the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. “As per the Act, a government medical practitioner should visit all these homes at least once a month. This has not been happening. It is high time the government draw up a framework for these rehabilitation centres as well. After all, all these people residing at these homes are the responsibility of the state government,” Johny said.
There are approximately 10,000 inmates at 124 registered psycho-social rehabilitation centres in the state. Most of them are home to patients sent by the police, the court and the social justice department.
“We are doing this as a social service. Earlier, the Peroorkada hospital used to admit patients during emergencies, but now this too has stopped. We are taking care of patients sent to us by government systems. Still, the mental hospital is hostile towards us,” said Santhosh Kumar S of Santhimandiram, a charitable institution based in Thiruvananthapuram.
Meanwhile, Dr Kiran P S, nodal officer of the state mental health programme, refuted the allegations. “No health institution will deny treatment to patients. If patients come to the hospital after OP hours, we send them for observation and will give admission the next day. The pharmacies are open till 5 pm. We are not aware of these issues,” said Kiran.
He said the minimum standards for psycho-social rehabilitation centres are being drawn up. “The implementation of the Mental Health Act is ongoing. The constitution of the mental health review board is also ongoing. A majority of the issues would be resolved once all this is implemented,” the officer added.