COIMBATORE: The Covid-19 pandemic has forced transgender persons in the State to shell out twice the amount of money they used to pay to undergo gender affirmation surgeries. According to members of the community, a basic procedure that cost them around Rs 80,000 before the pandemic, now costs Rs 1.30 to 1.50 lakh. Due to this, many trans persons have been unable to undergo the vital surgeries time, trans persons told TNIE.
M Taslima Nasrin, a transwoman, and the founder of Coimbatore’s Change Trust said, “Earlier, the only option for transgender persons was to go to cities such Mumbai or New Delhi for the surgery. Now, private hospitals perform it in Chennai and Coimbatore. The cost, however, has increased manifold since the pandemic with an increase in prices of medical equipment and tests.” Nasrin added the post-surgery treatment would cost an additional Rs 50,000.
Further, the Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai, the only government hospital in Tamil Nadu offering the service till Madurai’s Government Rajaji Hospital started a clinic recently, stopped performing the surgeries after the pandemic broke out in March 2020.
‘Need quality treatment’
Nasrin said many transpersons are reluctant to undergo the procedures at government hospitals owing to the “poor quality of treatment” coupled with the time taken for the process. D Shilpa, a transperson and coordinator of Change Trust, said, “We were recognised as ‘Thirununangai’ by former chief minister M Karunanidhi. Considering our situation, he facilitated the surgery at the government hospital. I myself underwent the surgery at the Stanley Medical College Hospital. However, due to improper treatment, my urinary path got blocked, and I had to undergo another surgery at a private hospital in Chennai within four months.”
A Venba (25), a transperson from Erode said she had been waiting for the surgery for seven years. She added that a private hospital in Coimbatore recently asked her to pay Rs 1.30 lakh for the surgery. Kanishka, another transperson, said, “No one will lend us any money in case of any emergency. After a deep economical struggle, I took the surgery two years ago after getting Rs 1 lakh as credit. However, they deducted Rs 20,000 from it as interest even before handing over the amount to me.”
Many like Kanishka claimed they are forced to pay a higher amount up to Rs 20,000 towards tax for the surgery which costs Rs 1.5 lakh, as it is categorised under ‘cosmetic treatment’. They demanded the surgery be included under the Chief Minister’s Insurance Scheme.
When contacted, M Ramesh, Residential Medical Officer at Stanley GH, said, “Due to the Covid-19 situation, the surgery was not undertaken here. A decision on resuming the surgery would be made soon.”
K Boopathi, professor and head of the department of Plastic Surgery at Stanley, said, “In 2016, we did the surgery. After that, a breast augmentation surgery was performed in 2020. We are ready to take up the cases but, we have none.”
Responding to allegations of poor treatment in government hospital, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said, “There is no poor treatment. If they have any issues, we are ready to rectify them. They can approach us with the issues in the treatment method.” The government has provided the facility to prevent the community from getting victimised by unauthorised centres for the surgery, he added.