Roy Abraham Kallivayalil, national president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, called for urgent intervention of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the state of affairs of the Mental Health Centre (MHC) in Thiruvananthpuram following the death of yet another inmate within a span of four months.
Talking to The Hindu on Sunday, Dr. Abraham said the murders had brought disgrace to Kerala. In a similar circumstance in which Satnam Singh Mann was killed there in August this year, a 64-year-old orphaned and mentally challenged man, identified as Prakashappa, was also killed at the MHC on December 4.
Dr. Abraham said the murder was a crime against humanity. Prakashappa, who was roaming around at Kilimanoor because of his illness, was picked up by the police and was produced before a Chief Judicial Magistrate and then admitted to the forensic ward of the MHC for treatment. While that ward had only 24 cells, there would be at least 60 to 65 patients each day in these cells.
It meant that there was more than one patient in each cell. Often, these patients became violent and foght with each other. Dr. Abraham alleged that the failure of the hospital authorities to post enough personnel to supervise the ward was criminal negligence.
This meant that they gave little value to the lives of the innocent patients. The State had taken custody of Prakashappa and it had a duty to protect him and other hapless people like him. Since the death of Mann in similar circumstances, nothing had changed at the hospital and nothing had been done in the past four months to prevent such incidents.
“This shows utter negligence on the part of the authorities. The mentally ill were being ill-treated and left unattended,” Dr. Abraham said. He said at least Prakashappa’s murder should be a final wake-up call. Facilities at MHC, Thiruvananthapuram, should be improved on a war- footing.
More psychiatrists had to be posted and all the vacant posts of nursing and para-medical staff should be filled up urgently, and new posts sanctioned for forensic cells and wards. A modern block of forensic psychiatry should be constructed. Not more than one patient should be in a cell. All others in the ward should be covered by 24-hour nursing and security surveillance.
Rather than resorting to knee-jerk reactions such as transferring the hospital superintendent, committed efforts with long-term goals, making psychiatry and mental health a priority for the State, were required. He reiterated that the Chief Minister should intervene in the matter urgently.