The Directorate of Health Services has issued orders to district civil surgeons across the state to operate weekly OPD clinics for two hours in each of the district prison in the state. The orders were issued on October 10 after directions from the Prison Reform Committee, a five-member team, headed by Justice S Radhakrishnan, constituted by the Bombay High Court to recommend jail reforms.
The orders passed by Dr Satish Pawar, director of health services, stated that district civil surgeons would have to form a team for the weekly OPD visits. For the male prisons, the team would include a physician/medical officer, skin specialist and a psychiatric social worker. The team for women prisoners would include a gynaecologist and a paediatrician.
Apart from directions by the reform committee to the DHS on October 7, weekly OPD visits were also part of a recommendation made in a Public Interest Litigation before the Bombay High Court on children of prisoners. The amicus curiae in the PIL, Dr Vijay Raghavan of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said that so far such an OPD clinic in prisons was only operational in Byculla women’s jail.
“Due to non-availability of police escorts, there is often a delay in taking prisoners for hospital visits. In cases where hospitals are far, by the time a prisoner may be taken to the hospital, the OPD hours are over. This leads to them not being checked by specialists. Organising weekly OPD clinics within prison will ensure that specialists can prescribe medicines to prison inmates without facing such issues,” said Raghavan.
The DHS orders stated that OPD visits should be organised in such a way that they do not disturb the functioning of the hospital. The district hospital authorities are also directed to submit a report each month on the visit including details of the number of prisoners examined.
The orders have been sent to district civil surgeons in Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Sindhudurg, Pune, Satara, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Buldhana, Amravati, Washim, Beed, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Jalna, Bhandara, Wardha, Gadchiroli and Ulhasnagar.
The district civil surgeon of Ulhasnagar has been directed to conduct the weekly OPDs in Kalyan jail. In other districts where there are no district civil surgeons, the DHS has directed hospitals affiliated to medical colleges to conduct the visits.
Apart from weekly OPDs, the DHS also informed the prison reform committee that six vacant posts of medical officers in prisons would be soon filled. The committee was informed that advertisements to fill nearly 400 posts have been published, including the six for prisons.