Over seven months after weekly clinics were to start in prisons across the state, fresh directions have now been issued by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) after it was found the initiative had not begun in all prisons.
The five-member Prison Reform Committee, headed by retired Justice S.Radhakrishnan, constituted as per the Bombay High Court orders, in October had directed that each district prison in the state should have a weekly Out Patients Department (OPD) clinic for male and female prisoners.
Based on the direction, the DHS had passed an order to all district civil surgeons to form a team for the weekly visits to jails. Last month, however, the committee wrote to the DHS again after it was brought to its notice that the weekly OPDs were not operational in all prisons. The fresh directions issued by the DHS have directed that in districts where there is no civil hospital, the deans of the government medical colleges should be informed to conduct the weekly OPDs in prison for implementation of the order through them.
These districts include Mumbai, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Dhule, Latur, Nanded, Aurangabad, Yavatmal, Akola, Jalgaon, Chandrapur, Nagpur and Gondia.
In visits conducted by the committee to prisons, prisoners had said that due to non-availability of guards to escort them to the hospitals, there was a delay causing them to not have regular access to specialist doctors.
The weekly OPDs in prisons are to address this issue. For the male prisoners, a physician, skin specialist, psychiatric social worker are directed to visit the jails and additionally, a gynecologist and pediatrician for the female section of the prisons.
The authorities have also directed that a report of the weekly OPDs, including details of the number of prisoners examined by each specialist, should be submitted to the DHS, which will in turn submit it before the committee.
Further, the committee was also informed that prisoners from Nashik Central prison were not being admitted to the local hospital but were instead being sent directly to Mumbai, a distance of over 160 kms.
“Instead of referring these patients directly to JJ Hospital, Mumbai, these patients should be given treatment either in the District Civil Hospital of Nashik or any of the regional referral service hospitals in Nashik. Only if necessary, these patients shall be referred to Mumbai,” the directive states.
A similar issue was also brought forward by prisoners and staffers in Thane jail, who complained that they were not being admitted to the civic hospital in Thane.
The hospital authorities had countered this by claiming that since there was no separate ward for prisoners, they were being referred to be taken to JJ Hospital in Mumbai.
The DHS has directed that prisoners from Thane jail should be treated in the general ward of the hospital and when the oncoming renovation of the premises takes place, a separate ward for prison patients be built, as per standards set by the Home department.