Near Karuvelipady at Thoppumpady lie the ruins of an old building that was once the District Tuberculosis Hospital. The building, now completely taken over by massive banyan trees, was once the centre of treatment for TB in the district. While the old building is unfit for use, a new, smaller hospital building next to the old structure now functions as the TB hospital.
Staff at the hospital are unsure about when the old hospital began functioning. “I went through some old records and found an old visitors’ log which had entries for patients from 1950,” said Mohammad Baiju, treatment supervisor of the TB hospital. The old hospital had 40 beds for patients to be admitted and treated during the many months that it took for the disease to be cured.
“Patients suffering from TB were admitted to the in-patient department back then. They needed good care and good food daily and this hospital provided expert care for patients from all over the district,” said Mohammad Salim, a doctor at the hospital.
Dr. Salim said the stigma associated with the disease meant that patients would often have to stay at the hospital even after they were cured. “A serious case would require the patient to be admitted for more than four months sometimes. There was also a lot of stigma attached to diseases like leprosy and TB. The patients’ families wouldn’t take them back even after they were cured. So they often stayed on here. Sadly, the stigma still continues,” he said.
With new developments in medical science, the treatment of TB too underwent a change. With the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) being implemented in the district in 2000, TB patients did not need to be admitted any more. The daily regime was done away with and medicines had to be taken on alternate days only.
Admissions for TB became rarer and the importance of the hospital fell as medicines could be administered from taluk hospitals or primary health centres. With neglect and improper maintenance, the old TB hospital building fell into ruins. Around 30 banyan trees have taken over the building and the hospital complex. The open, airy structure of the hospital has become a haunt for drug addicts, stray dogs and snakes.
The disease, however, is still a terror among people in the country. Over three lakh people in India still die of the disease every year.
TB care for patients in the district is administered from the new hospital building which began functioning in 2003. The small complex is also the centre for coordinating the TB care measures of other hospitals in the district and for training staff in treating TB.
Hospital staff say the small, congested complex is insufficient to properly carry out the activities of the hospital.
The neglected old complex, meanwhile, remains as a memory of the government’s early efforts to combat the killer disease.