The escape of inmates once again highlights the need to take adequate measures to improve facilities at the tertiary mental health institute

The escape of 11 undertrial prisoners from the campus of Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda on Tuesday is symptomatic of a larger malaise that has afflicted the hospital for a long time.

It once again highlights the need to take adequate measures to improve facilities at the tertiary mental health institute.

Patients and health care workers struggle due to lack of proper infrastructure like clean recovery rooms for general and prisoner wards, drinking water, toilets, general sanitation and medical equipment.

On any given day, the special male prisoners’ ward, from where the undertrial prisoners escaped, is crammed with 60 to 70 inmates.

“The working station for hospital staff is inside the prisoner’s ward, which poses a risk to the staff. The security station is located outside and there is no immediate layer of protection. Our nurses, paramedics and doctors routinely get attacked by prisoners, who suffer from antisocial personality disorder,” the hospital staff said.

“Due to violent behaviour of prisoners, there is need for extra protection for health workers,” said Hospital superintendent Dr. V. Pramod Kumar. Attempts to improve prisoners’ ward proved futile as lack of funds derailed the project, which is now in the form of a structure with pillars and slabs. “The contractor abruptly stopped the construction activity on the pretext that there was no funding,” officials said.

There are infrastructure deficiencies like lack of a laboratory, trained personnel to conduct routine tests like X-ray, blood tests, ECG or EEG.

In 2009-10, Government of India (GOI) had proposed to convert IMH into a Centre of Excellence to improve patient facilities.

Ironically, the first instalment of Rs. 5.28 crore that was released was not utilised and eventually the remaining grant amount was not released.

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