Eleven posts of grade two staff are lying vacant, 13 of cooks and four of drivers.

One nurse for 40 patients This 147-yr Kerala mental health centre needs overhaul
news Mental Health Saturday, December 16, 2017 - 17:43

It has been 147 years since the Mental Health Centre at Oolampara in Thiruvananthapuram came into existence.

But the institute of mental health in the state founded in 1870, is yet to be developed into a full-fledged centre for mental care, for want of sufficient staff and other infrastructure.   

The Centre is still waiting to be transformed into an academic or research centre from a hospital that has been providing mental care and functioning as a custodial institute for treating chronically ill patients. 

“If you ask me what needs to be changed, almost everything. A new system should be in place,” Dr Sagar , superintendent-in-charge of the hospital told TNM.

“The situation is such that there is only one staff nurse for five or six wards. This means that one nurse has to take care of 40 patients which is nowhere near the stipulated staff-nurse ratio of 1:4. There are only four psychiatry social workers for 100 to 150 patients,” Dr Dinesh, a psychiatrist in the hospital said.

The surprising fact is that the total number of posts for clinical psychologists in the entire state is just eight. “There should be minimum 14 posts with at least one clinical psychologist in all the 14 districts of the state,” said Dr Sagar.  

For a mental health centre to function effectively, as per the national mental health programme, it needs to have a team of three people-a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatry social worker, Dr Sagar said.

“In our Centre, there are two clinical psychologists only, which I won’t say is insufficient. But in the case of other staff, we have been following the staff strength framed in 1961. The shortage of grade two staff assumes more importance given the fact that no family members are allowed to visit the patients admitted at the Centre and the hospital staff are taking care of them,” he said.  

There are nine posts vacant for staff nurse and two of head nurse. Eleven posts of grade two staff are lying vacant, 13 of cooks and four of drivers. “The food for the patients is being provided by the hospital as per the prescription of a dietician. But sufficient number of cooks are not present. There are four posts of driver lying vacant, for eight vehicles there is only one driver,” he said. 

The bed strength of the hospital is 531 and on an average 500 patients are admitted at a time. The number of patients turning up at the outpatient department on an average is between 200 and 250.  

“On nearing 150 years since inception, we have been preparing a master plan foreseeing the development for the coming 50 years, to submit to the government. The health department is keen to support us and attempts have been initiated to make the government set aside money for the Centre in the 2018 budget. The hospital should be developed as a well-conceived academic and research centre in due course,” Dr Sagar said.

“A separate ward for children is in the initial phase only and it is high time to have one, as parents are still skeptical of bringing their children for psychological treatment," Dr Dinesh said. 


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