The 76-year-old Silver Jubilee Leprosy and Skin Clinic at Saidapet is facing threat of demolition with Chennai Corporation proposing to lay a road to reach the Saidapet market.
If the proposal materialises, it will affect several leprosy patients who depend on the clinic for drugs, therapy and rehabilitation services.
Officials of the directorate of medical services (DMS), under which the clinic functions, confirmed that the Corporation had approached them with the plan. “They want the land to construct an approach road to the market. We have firmly told them that we need an alternative building for the clinic. They have promised to construct a building nearby. We need the government’s permission to go ahead and hand over the building,” an official said.
Public Works Department officials had conducted a joint inspection with DMS and provided technical guidance.
Health department officials said the Saidapet clinic was started in 1937 as a children’s clinic under the Central government’s control. It was converted into a leprosy clinic in 1948, and a skin clinic functioned alongside. It is also an undergraduate training centre for house surgeons of government medical colleges and a centre for implementing multi-drug therapy regimen.
“This is the oldest clinic for leprosy treatment in Chennai and is a drug delivery point. It covers around 250 old patients. On Wednesday, at least 100 cured patients attend the disability prevention and medical rehabilitation programme. Dressings for ulcer, electrical stimulation and magnetotherapy for patients with plantar ulcer (ulcer in legs) are done here,” an official source said. A few NGOs provide food for patients on Wednesdays, and every Friday, district leprosy officers bring in cases for screening, he added.
“Gothamedu, which is nearly a kilometre away, is home to several leprosy patients. If the location of the clinic is changed, it will pose hardship as they face difficulty in walking,” he said.
For patients like Susaiammal, who is in her 70s, the clinic has been part of their lives for several years. “I have been coming here for the last 15 years for treatment,” she said. Ellamma, another patient, said the clinic was accessible through adequate bus facilities.
This is not the first time a leprosy treatment facility has been posed against a development work. Last year, the Tambaram municipality proposed to construct a bus terminus near the Government Leprosy Rehabilitation Promotion Unit, Tambaram. But the Madras High Court, acting on a petition, ordered that status quo be maintained.