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Need for better healthcare in prison Law and order

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Agitated: Relatives swarm the Government Royapettah Hospital after an undertrial’s death recently. —
Agitated: Relatives swarm the Government Royapettah Hospital after an undertrial’s death recently. —

Problems that arise when prisoners die can be solved,

writes R. Sujatha

Better medical care in prison would not only have saved the life of a prisoner but also prevented the law and order problem that Royapettah faced following the death of the undertrial a fortnight ago.

The undertrial, brought from the Puzhal prison to Government Royapettah Hospital for treatment, was declared ‘brought dead.’ The agitated relatives staged a sit-in that resulted in closure of shops and traffic diversion.

A senior doctor at the GRH said that five out of the 14 prisoners brought to the hospital for treatment, in the past six to nine months, were declared ‘brought dead.’ This creates a lot of tension among relatives and often doctors, police and the authorised government officials do not find time to explain to relatives the real cause of death.

Until 1999, it was a normal practice for the Central Prison authorities to take the sick to the Government General Hospital, across the road. The hospital had a special ward for prisoners. But, after the construction of the hospital’s twin tower block was taken up, such prisoners were transported to the GRH and the practice continues though the prison itself was shifted some time ago to Puzhal.

Doctors and senior police officers say lives could have been saved if the prison hospital was equipped with the required intensive medical care. Additional Director-General of Prisons A. Subramanian said the provision of an intensive care unit in prisons was being considered. The government had taken several steps, including conducting preventive health camps in prisons. “If we don’t bring them [prisoners] to the GRH, we would have trouble. A lot of lives have been saved. We have already identified prisoners with hypertension and high sugar levels. Many of them suffer from withdrawal symptoms from habits they pick up outside and this affects their health. This can cause serious problems. We maintain a list of contact phone/mobile numbers of the immediate relatives in control rooms so that they can be informed if a prisoner falls ill. We are also planning a de-addiction centre in Puzhal prison and studying the possibility of including nearby government approved corporate hospitals for treatment,” he said.

Such a move would obviate the need to transport a sick prisoner to a city hospital, he pointed out.

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