The St Joseph’s Hospice in Tamil Nadu’s Chengalpet will be shut down immediately after the senior citizens residing there are shifted to other homes. The order, given by the Revenue Divisional Officer, came days after the hospice – a ‘home for dying destitutes’ – came under the scanner for transporting two senior citizens and a corpse, along with vegetables, in a truck that was dressed as an ambulance.
Speaking to TNM, the RDO, Noor Mohammad, said, “The primary reason for the shutting down is that the hospice does not have a licence. It has been operating its cemetery too without a license.”
On the elderly who were being housed at the hospice, the RDO said, “We are shifting all of them today to another home. No matter how long it takes, they will be taken to another government home tonight. We will enquire about their addresses and move them to the a place of their choice.”
The RDO declined to comment on the exact nature of the violations as the police inquiry is still on.
According to reports, 86 of the elders at the hospice were being kept there without their consent.
The hospice is located in Palaswaram village of Kanchipuram district, around 70 km from Chennai city. Founded by Father Thomas in 2006, the St Joseph’s hospice has several branches in TN. The home in Palaswaram came under the scanner when a vehicle belonging to them was apprehended by a motorist on the Salavakkam-Edayamputhur road, when an old woman screamed for help from inside.
She was being transported to the home without her consent, along with another elderly man and a dead body stacked up against vegetables.
Following the incident, it emerged that there have been complaints in the past against St Joseph’s Hospice, with some residents of Palaswaram raising questions over its functioning, alleging that the organisation is involved in an illegal organ trade racket.
As soon as the incident came to light on February 22, the Revenue Divisional Officer had stated that they would be compiling a report based on inputs from the Health Department and the police.
The hospice on the other hand had claimed that they had reapplied for a license and the government was delaying it.
Speaking to TNM, one police official close to the investigation had confirmed that a case of suspicious death has been registered regarding the dead body in the ambulance, and that investigations were underway. The body had been identified as that of Vijaykumar, a 70-year-old man, who had reportedly died at St Joseph’s Hospice in Tambaram and was being transported to its Palaswaram branch. The investigators, however, refused to comment on allegations of organ trafficking.
Initial investigations revealed that the hospice has branches in several parts of Tamil Nadu, including Nagercoil and Madurai. On the following Wednesday, the Revenue District Officer in Kancheepuram, officials from the health department and the police visited St Joseph’s Hospice as part of their probe.