Monday, December 06, 2021

Cured, but nowhere to go: Over 900 in mental hospitals in Maharashtra

Several inmates in state-run hospitals either don’t have families or have been abandoned

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
February 13, 2017 2:12:41 am
Mental health. Torn pieces of paper with the words Mental health. Concept Image. Black and White. Closeup. Of the 911 patients living permanently in government mental hospitals, 425 have been living over 20 years while 248 have spent between 10 to 20 years.

In the four government-run mental hospitals across the state, at least 911 patients seem doomed to life within the hospital walls, either because they have no family to return to or have been abandoned. The lack of enough rehabilitation programmes and reluctance of families to accept a cured patient has put an additional burden on government-run hospitals. Doctors say once the family disappears, the state has to bear the burden of medical bills and accommodation of the patients. The mental health cell in the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) has moved a proposal to build at least one permanent home each near the four hospitals to relocate patients who no longer need treatment. “We are waiting for approval before this can be added to the project implementation plan. If a home is built, these people can try to lead a normal life again. It will also make space for other patients,” a DHS official said.

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Of the 911 patients living permanently in government mental hospitals, 425 have been living over 20 years while 248 have spent between 10 to 20 years. Most have completed their treatment. Thane Mental Hospital has the most abandoned patients, with 371 such admitted as of December 31, 2016, followed by Yerwada Mental Hospital in Pune that has 355 patients living for over five years now.

The mental hospitals — in Thane, Pune, Ratnagiri, and Nagpur — house 4,427 patients. These hospitals lack enough social workers to trace the family of each treated patient for their rehabilitation.

In Thane, there are only nine social workers to look for families, counsel and rehabilitate over 400 patients. “In most cases, we find there is nobody to take the patient home. In case the parents have passed away, siblings are often reluctant to come. A lot of relatives give false addresses during registration,” said medical officer Dr Anjali Deshpande.

Patients who have been cured and have nowhere to go are involved in gardening, tailoring, cooking and cleaning. In Thane, the oldest patient, Moti Chua, has been living here for over 50 years now. Every year, he is made in-charge of decorations during Ganpati celebrations and does menial work for the hospital the rest of the year. “They have reached a point where they are happy to live inside the hospital. They have not seen the outside world and are scared to live on their own,” Deshpande added.

The state, however, is of the view that families must take responsibility and help these patient rehabilitate.

In Nagpur, a pilot project has been started to invite families of patients for lunch to increase their interaction. “It has become a challenge to encourage families to come spend time with the patient. With the pilot project, we hope to make families understand what goes on during a patient’s treatment,” said Dr Sadhana Tayade, joint director at DHS.

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