In the last five years, over 400 patients “disappeared” or went missing from the Delhi government’s Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in East Delhi, data provided by the hospital in response to an RTI shows.
According to the data, 420 patients had “disappeared” since 2009 — the highest number of “disappearances” was 121 patients in 2010 and the least, last year at 60 patients.
In the same period, 18 lakh patients were treated at the hospital.
IHBAS director Dr Nimesh Desai said these figures were “misleading”. “For the last 10 years, we have distinguished between the concept of ‘escaped’ and ‘absconding’ patients on the advise of our board of advisors, a body of experts mandated by the Mental Health Act of 197. For patients sent to us from Tihar Jail or by magisterial orders, we use the term ‘escaped’ if they leave during treatment since we are accountable to the authorities concerned and we follow all due legal processes for this category.”
However, for the last five years, the data of “escaped” patients from this category is less than 0.1 per cent — one patient in 2010 and three in 2013, for example.
Dr Desai said bulk of the patients included in the RTI reply were walk-in, regular patients, who were, therefore, “absconding” rather than having “escaped”.
“Our hospital wards are treated like any other hospital, so if some patient simply walks out without informing his or her guardians or hospital authorities, he or she can do so and that is a basic human right of patients. It happens in all hospitals across specialties and we don’t believe IHBAS should be treated any differently,” Dr Desai said.
The data in this category (included in the RTI reply), he said, was still less than 2.5 per cent of hospital admissions in the last five years — “at par with any regular hospital of any specialty”.
The third category — which is patients who Leave Against Medical Advice (LAMA) (which has not been included in the RTI reply) — are those patients, who “give their signed consent stating they do not want to follow the treatment”, and leave the hospital after informing the authorities.
IHBAS authorities told Newsline that with LAMA patients being less than 3-4 per cent of total admissions, the data for this category was similar to data from other hospitals.
According to activist Raj Hans Bansal who filed the RTI with IHBAS, of 43 government mental health hospitals in the country, IHBAS was the only institution, which replied to his queries.
“While it is appreciable that IHBAS is managing such a huge load of patients, 420 patients going missing in five years is worrying in a mental health hospital since unlike other ailments, psychiatric patients may not be in a position to choose what is best for them. Therefore, such hospitals may need special security arrangements,” he said.
“We have achieved what the SC had mandated 10 years ago — changing a mental health institution from a custodial institution — except perhaps for those people who are sent to us by judicial authorities. It is a hospital like any other. I do not agree with the viewpoint that mental health patients need to be watched any differently, this is the basic principle of the open approach to mental health reforms,” Dr Desai said.
Dr Desai added that security guards and attendants were being provided at the hospital on government funds for high-risk patients, who seemed suicidal or prone to running away.