CHENNAI: Hidden behind 15ft-high compound walls is an 80-bed privately run home for the mentally ill in Urapakkam, 50km from the city. The home, Oxford Charitable Trust, has around 100 patients, but has not renewed its government licence for more than seven years.
“We have not issued a licence to them. They are not registered with us as a private nursing home for the mentally ill,” confirmed Dr C Jayaprakash, director of the government Institute of Mental Health (IMH). As per the law, a private mental health nursing or rehabilitation home needs a licence from the IMH or the state mental health authority. The licence has to be renewed every three years.
Oxford Charitable Trust functions out of a white-washed building. The only entrance is a 6ft high blue gate, which is usually locked. TOI managed to gain entry into the building and found a kitchen with women cutting vegetables and stirring watery sambar. Further inside is a courtyard, surrounded by locked rooms with small windows. On the first floor are women watching television while quietly eating sambar and rice.
It could pass off for an old-age home, but residents of Urapakkam say sounds of “women shouting or crying loudly at odd hours” suggest otherwise. “They hit us if we cry, shout or try to escape,” said former inmate K Rizmiya, who has filed a petition in the Madras high court against her husband who admitted her there.
“The staff would force us to take strong sedatives at night or inject us with medicine to put us to sleep for five days if we shouted,” said Rizmiya. She protested the day she was admitted, and woke up in the same spot five days later drenched in her own urine and feces.
Oxford Charitable Trust does not fulfill the prerequisites for a mental health nursing home as per the State Mental Health Rules, 1990. “They need a psychiatrist on call and a full-time psychologist and registered social workers,” says Dr Sathyanathan, former director, IMH. “They need to have an emergency care unit and an electro-convulsive therapy facility,” he said.
The owners describe Oxford Charitable Trust as a home for the mentally ill. “We charge Rs 6,000 a month without medicines,” says one of the owners, G Ramkumar. “We take care of the patient as long as the guardians want us to.” They require a “medical history report and prescription of medicines” for admission.
Rizmiya said brokers who hang around IMH falsify medical certificates and admit people in to the home.