MUMBAI: Expressing concern that 475 patients are in the state’s four regional mental hospitals for more than 10 years, the Bombay high court has sought information about their fitness and asked whether they need to remain in hospital.
“(W)e agree…that this is an area where utmost care has to be taken to ensure that those who are fit to be discharged should not continue in the mental health establishment more than necessary, and the review of those patients who are there for more than ten years should be a priority,” Justices Nitin Jamdar and
said on Tuesday.
They were hearing a public interest litigation filed by city psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty on patients languishing in mental hospitals either cured or not seriously mentally ill. Following the July 10 order, the
State Mental Health Authority
(SMHA) submitted data collected from the mental hospitals at Nagpur, Thane, Pune and Ratnagiri. Shetty’s advocate
said 1,649 patients are shown as unfit for discharge and 475 patients are in hospitals for more than 10 years. She said this is a matter of concern and it is not clear whether there was an appropriate review done.
The judges said review boards under Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 can review continued admission of a person with mental illness. State’s advocate Manish Pable said review of illnesses and continued admission is being taken. The judges directed the eight review boards to supply information regarding the 475 patients “whether they have been reviewed in the preceding three months, their fitness or whether they need to be continued”.
“If they are not examined, the review boards will initiate the process for their examination,” they added.
The data also stated that 1,022 patients are declared fit for discharge but are awaiting discharge. Among these, in the case of 451 patients, it is due to delay in compliance of procedure. The judges directed the government to depute a representative, preferably of a senior position, from the Social Welfare Department to attend the SMHA’s September 4 meeting “to expedite discharge of the fit patients who are held up due to procedural compliance”.
The judges said the chart shows that no application was received regarding denial of medical record. “This may indicate a lack of awareness regarding the patients’ rights, both in the complaints regarding deficiency of service and denial of medical records,” they added. They said SMHA must take note of all this and “initiate campaigns..”
, for SMHA, said that efforts are being made to educate patients and their relatives about their rights.
The judges said NGOs can complement this work. Mehra said
will endeavour to engage as many NGOs as possible to create awareness of rights. On October 11, the judges will take up the issue of prisoners with mental illness.