TN health minister cracks whip against officials for unsanitary conditions at care home for mentally ill

During an unannounced visit to the care home, Ma Subramanian uncovered a distressing situation where 50 women were confined in cramped and inadequate spaces.

BySumit Jha

Published Jul 19, 2023 | 8:23 PM Updated Jul 19, 2023 | 8:23 PM

Ma Subramanian care home for mentally ill

Tamil Nadu’s Health Minister Ma Subramanian suspended the joint director of Medical and Rural Health Services in the Pudukkottai district and transferred the chief medical officer of the government hospital at Annavasal after he found deplorable and unsanitary conditions at a privately-run facility for mentally ill persons.

During an unannounced visit to the care home on Tuesday, 19 July, Minister Subramanian heard disturbing noises emanating from a dark area. Upon inspection, he uncovered a distressing situation where 50 women were confined in cramped and inadequate spaces, comprising three to four small rooms.

Each room contained 15 to 20 individuals, who were found sleeping on the floor without proper bedding. The health minister also noted that the residents were not receiving appropriate nourishment.

Expressing his dismay at the inhumane treatment, Subramanian revealed that the facility was managed by an NGO called Renaissance.

“The organisation had obtained permission from the Health and Social Welfare Department to operate separate facilities for men and women. The government had provided an annual grant of ₹22 lakh for the maintenance of these homes,” the health minister told reporters.

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Immediate action taken

Upon conversing with the residents, Subramanian discovered that they were only being served a meagre diet of rasam and rice, without any other nutritional provisions. Some individuals had not bathed for a long time.

Consequently, the health minister asked officials to relocate all the inmates to the Pudukkottai Government Medical College Hospital, where they were provided with bathing facilities and new clothes.

Residents’ complaints about inadequate food prompted the minister to order the cancellation of the service organisation’s contract and the withdrawal of government assistance.

Suspended Joint Director K Ramu claimed to have visited the care home once a week. Minister Subramanian, however, noted that had the joint director made regular visits, such deplorable conditions would not have persisted.

Similarly, the Chief Medical Officer Saravanan at the Government Hospital in Annavasal stated that he visited the facility once a week. The minister expressed his disappointment that the issue had not been brought to the government’s attention, as appropriate remedial measures could have been taken.

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All homes for mentally ill to be inspected

To rectify the situation, Minister Subramanian held discussions with officials and instructed them to immediately terminate the contract between the NGO and the Social Justice Department.

He also stated that the director of the Institute of Mental Health should visit Kalamavur to evaluate the condition of 50 mentally ill patients residing in another facility operated by the same NGO.

Additionally, the minister mandated all joint directors of the Health Department to inspect mentally ill care homes run by all NGOs in all districts, and submit a report within two weeks.

He reiterated that strict action would be taken against those responsible for operating substandard facilities.