Estimates Committee of the Assembly warns of serious consequences

The Estimates Committee of the Kerala Assembly has warned of serious consequences if the three mental health centres in the State were not equipped with adequate staff and infrastructure facilities.

In its report tabled in the Assembly on Wednesday, the committee recommended a slew of measures to improve infrastructure, provide rehabilitation and counselling for patients and relatives and extend mental health care to district-level hospitals.

Later, addressing the media, chairman of the committee V.D. Satheesan and members M.A. Baby, K. Muraleedharan and Dominic Presentation said the three mental health centres in Thiruvananthpuram, Thrissur, and Kozhikode were found to be lacking the staff strength to handle the number of patients.

Inadequate staff

They said the centres did not have enough psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, and security personnel. This, they feared, would lead to the recurrence of incidents like the two deaths reported at the Thiruvananthapuram centre recently.

Akin to prison

Mr. Satheesan said all the three centres had enough space on their premises, yet were marked by old, dirty buildings and poor facilities. “The isolation cells are akin to a prison and more than one patient is housed in one cell posing a risk. Patients with criminal tendencies are also housed together in forensic wards, creating conditions conducive for the outbreak of violence. The lack of adequate security personnel adds to the danger”.

The committee has recommended counselling and awareness programmes for patients and relatives and rehabilitation centres for destitute patients. It has stressed the need to monitor private mental health rehabilitation centres and recognise genuine NGOs.

‘In reach’ service

The report has called for ‘in reach’ mental health service to provide treatment facilities in prisons. It proposes behavioural intensive care units and de-addiction centres at MHCs and the constitution of an auditing group for incident monitoring, random case review and feedback analysis. It has also called for digitising medical records of mental health patients.

Master plan

Mr. Satheesan said the three MHCs required a master plan for infrastructure development with budgetary allocation.

The report calls for strengthening the district-level mental health programme to remove the social stigma of mental health problems. It recommends the extension of mental health care to district/ general hospitals and special wards in medical colleges to treat mental health patients requiring hospitalisation for other diseases.

Other proposals mooted by the Assembly committee include the launch of an ambulance service for mental health centres, creation of more seats in psychiatry for postgraduate medical courses and a task force to identify destitute mental health patients and bring them to MHCs for treatment.