Families struggle as Mumbai civic hospitals turn away psychiatric patients
With most psychiatry departments in civic-run hospitals shut since March, when the lockdown began, patients and their families are struggling to cope with the challenges posed by their mental disorders.
On December 18, Sachin Karve, 48, was rushed to Dr RN Cooper Municipal General Hospital, in Juhu, by his wife Swati. Despite Karve being an alcoholic who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and having a history of hospitalisation, the hospital refused to admit him.
Back in August, Karve had been admitted to Cooper Hospital for 15 days when his condition had deteoriated. “The psychiatry department has been closed since March when the Covid-19 outbreak began. So we had to admit him [Karve] in a general ward. However, he soon started harassing other patients who beat him up. Then he ran away from the hospital twice,” said a doctor who is aware of the case. When Karve was eventually found — he hadn’t left the hospital — Swati had to take him home. “The hospital instructed me to keep an eye on him [Karve] round the clock at the hospital. We don’t have anyone to stay at the hospital all the time. I have two children, 10 and 9 years old, whom I can’t leave alone at home,” she said.
In December, when Karve’s condition worsened again, Swati returned to Cooper Hospital, but the hospital is still not admitting patients. “All the departments have opened up except psychiatry. There are patients with suicidal intentions and depression who can even cause harm to others. They need immediate hospitalisation. Despite this, we can’t admit them,” said a doctor from the hospital, requesting anonymity.
However, despite repeated calls and messages, Dr Pinakin Gujjar dean of the hospital didn’t respond.
The government-run Sir JJ Hospital started admitting psychiatric patients from the first week of December. “During the pandemic, we had to close down the psychiatric wards and send back the patients to their respective homes, which disrupted their treatment. But now we have opened up the OPD [outpatients’ department] and the admission process,” said Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar, dean of Sir JJ Hospital. King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, in Parel, has also begun partial hospitalisation of patients with psychiatric disorders.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 130 countries, 67% of those surveyed reported disruptions in counselling and psychotherapy due to the pandemic and 35% reported disruptions to emergency interventions for psychiatric conditions.
Additionally, many Covid-19 survivors have been found to be at a greater risk of developing mental health issues like anxiety, depression and insomnia, psychiatrists said. “This is the time to focus on mental health and invest more into building up the infrastructure. People are already living in fear of the pandemic. So, we need to provide wider opportunities to patients,” said Dr Harish Shetty, a city psychiatrist.