GH sheds its in-patient psychiatry ward

A building constructed with funds from the National Mental Health Programme at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) no longer serves its purpose.

Meant to strengthen the Department of Psychiatry by establishing an in-patient facility, the single-storey structure now houses wards of the Department of Thoracic Medicine, leaving the city’s largest government hospital with no separate in-patient psychiatry ward.

Inaugurated in 2008, the building was planned as an in-patient special treatment ward of the Department of Psychiatry.

The Madras Medical College (MCC) and RGGGH, which function as a unit, were among nine to 10 government institutions in the State that received around ₹45 to ₹50 lakh from the National Mental Health Programme to strengthen the departments of psychiatry. They used the funds for upgrading their facilities , a senior doctor said.

The Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital and Government Stanley Medical College Hospital had also received funds. “But the building at MMC is no longer used by the Department of Psychiatry. It has been allocated to the Department of Thoracic Medicine. The administration should give back the building,” he said. Wards 54 and 54a of Thoracic Medicine currently function here.

When it started, the ground floor housed the out-patient department for psychiatric services, and the first floor had in-patient wards. “The department was then receiving at least 300 to 400 out-patients. There was no need for patients requiring care to go to the Institute of Mental Health. They were admitted and treated at MMC. We received persons with schizophrenia, bipolar and psychotic disorders,” a former professor said.

Though aimed at de-institutionalisation, using it for a different purpose was a “retrograde” step. “It takes so many years to promote mental health, and such things only pushes us back,” he said.

A hospital official said they would look into the issue — “We, however, do not require a psychiatry ward for in-patients as we already have IMH.”

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