‘Subject all inmates of Institute of Mental Health to tests’

The mentally challenged cannot be equated on a par with other COVID-19 patients, says High Court

July 16, 2020 11:53 pm | Updated 11:53 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the State government to subject all inmates of the Institute of Mental Health in Kilpauk, Chennai, to COVID-19 tests within a week and provide appropriate treatment to those testing positive for the infection.

Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha passed the order on a public interest litigation petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), represented by its secretary S. Namburajan.

Though a Special Government Pleader stated that all COVID-19 patients were treated equally, the judges rejected his submission and agreed with petitioner’s counsel C. Karl Marx that the mentally challenged could not be equated on a par with others.

Observing that the inmates of IMH might not be in a position to even disclose the symptoms, the judges felt that it would only be appropriate to test them all, since many were aged and suffering from co-morbidities such as blood pressure and diabetes.

In his affidavit, Mr. Namburajan had insisted on shifting those testing positive either to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital or the special COVID-19 care hospital at the Kings Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research in Guindy, Chennai, and treating them in a special ward.

Selective testing

Mr. Namburajan said that a cook serving at the IMH had tested positive for COVID-19 initially.

Thereafter, two wardens, three postgraduate students and even the director of the institute had tested positive. It led to five inmates from the institute testing positive for the infection in the first week of July and the number continued to rise.

Stating that the State government was testing only select inmates suffering from severe symptoms, the litigant association insisted on subjecting all IMH inmates to testing.

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