Government Tuberculosis Hospital in Thoppur has a full-fledged recreation centre

It is over a month since Saraswathi (39) of Jaihindpuram was admitted to Government Tuberculosis Hospital in Thoppur here. She is one of the many patients who have been abandoned by their kin. Her elder sister, who is her only family member, hardly visits her. Socially isolated, Saraswathi was until recently spending time sleeping on the hospital bed.

A month ago, the hospital authorities set up a recreation centre inside the premises to prevent patients from falling into depression. The facility was created with government funds and aid from philanthropists.

Each ward now has a television set and an FM radio with speakers.

Now, Saraswathi spends her time watching TV and listening to FM radio.

The recreation centre also has a library and facility for indoor games. The centre has come as a boon for patients and their attendants, who otherwise would be sitting idle, says a hospital staff.

Nearly 80 per cent of the patients are abandoned by their families, who fear contracting the disease, says S. Gandhimathinathan, Resident Medical Officer of Thoppur Hospital.

“In the past, some have even attempted suicide due to depression. We are planning to provide counselling to the family members who will be the most suitable persons to offer emotional support to such patients,” he adds.

The 115-acre campus, which once presented a picture of utter neglect, is now equipped with all basic facilities such as water, electricity, transportation, modern toilets and so on.

Authorities have also planted more than 2,000 saplings donated by the Forest Department.

Thanking the government and the donors, the staff and the patients have put forth a few demands, such as separate block for lodging attendants, a canteen, a bus station and a shelter on corridors connecting different blocks.

 When contacted, B. Santha Kumar, Dean, Government Rajaji Hospital, said, “A seven-foot-high compound wall will be built around the campus. The other demands will also be met.”

Thoppur Hospital is the only sanatorium available for tuberculosis patients in the southern districts. Steps are being taken to open an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the TB patients.

Inaugurated in 1962 by the then Chief Minister late K. Kamaraj, the facility, also known as Austinpatti hospital, is an exclusive wing of Government Rajaji Hospital, and it handles infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, chickenpox and cholera.

The wards have around 170 in-patients on any given day and most of them require long stay.   The total sanctioned strength of the TB ward is 207, cholera ward is 28, and infectious diseases ward is 50.