February 12, 2010 1:11:36 am
With 35 deaths reported in 2009 at the Asha Kiran home for the mentally challenged,the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) submitted a report in the High Court citing deplorable medical attention,poor administration,lack of adequate staff and unhygienic conditions as reasons for the deaths.
Placing the report before a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice A P Shah on Wednesday as a PIL on the matter came up for hearing,the commission categorically blamed lack of medical care and complications.
Owing to the poor health of residents,the institution reports a very high death toll, stated the report forwarded by NCPCR counsel Monika Garg. Due to poor communication skills,the residents are unable to voice discomfort. Thus,by the time they receive medical attention,their condition reaches an aggravated stage,which results in death despite medical intervention.
The complex,situated in Rohini,with a maximum capacity of around 350 inmates,currently houses 728. Of them,372 are children and 366 adults. According to the report,nearly 60 per cent are in the category of severely or profoundly mentally retarded persons.
Appalled by the deaths,the team,headed by the NCPCR chairperson Shanta Sinha,had visited the complex run by the Social Welfare Department in December and again on January 28.
As per their report,the team found that the home did not have proper records of residents. It had only two superintendents though the sanctioned strength was three and one post of deputy superintendent,which was vacant too. Around 40 per cent of all sanctioned posts were vacant and the caretakers were overburdened. The number of children under each caretaker was between 30 and 50 far above the number prescribed under the Justice Juvenile Act.
Health and hygiene was a huge issue in the girls cottage,where the team found insects and rats, the report stated. Washrooms were very poorly maintained and there were no systematic fumigation and disinfection processes.
The sleeping arrangements comprised durries and mattresses on the floor. Plus,there was only one medical van for 728 inmates who have to be taken often for hospitalisation or consultation.
The report also pointed out the lack of special educators for children. Those with severe and profound problems were not attending classes.
In its recommendations,the commission said children with mild intellectual impairment be separated immediately from the moderate and severe categories; staff and special educators be recruited and better transportation facilities made. It suggested weekly health check-ups for early detection of ailments.
The report also advocated the formation of a health committee comprising the superintendent,social workers,psychologists,psychiatrists,occupational therapists,special educators,neurologists,physicians and NGO experts. The committee is to prepare monthly reports on the progress of each individual and maintain records to ensure transparency. It was also suggested that the home be fitted with surveillance cameras to prevent sexual or physical abuse of residents.
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