LAHORE - Poor administration, improper security, shortage of consultants, extra burden of patients and inadequate space is affecting service delivery at Punjab Institute of Mental Health - the largest facility for psychiatric patients in the country.

Established in 1900 with the name Lunatic Asylum on 172 acre land, the institution was renamed as Government Mental Hospital and later as the Government Hospital for Psychiatric Diseases. In 2002, it was renamed as Punjab Institute of Mental Health.

Besides Punjab, PIMH is getting patients from adjacent areas of all provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The premises continue to shrink with the passage of time due to establishment of housing schemes and extension of nearby Punjab Institute of Cardiology. Presently it spreads merely over 50 acre land.

Over 500-600 patients visit Out Patient Department and Emergency daily. Bed capacity of the institute has not been rationalised to cope with growing need of rapidly increasing population, putting huge burden on existing infrastructure. Since its inception, the institution has a capacity to deal 1400 patients indoors consisting of five units for male and female.

PIMH has Male and Female Special Care Units, Psycho-geriatric Ward, Dental Out Patient Department, Male and Female Rehabilitation Unit, Male and Female Addiction Unit, Occupational Therapy Unit, Private Ward and Clinical Psychology Department.

Insiders told The Nation that the management is helpless before mafia who is minting money through one mean or the other. There is atmosphere of fear at PIMH and doctors, nurses and paramedical staff is not ready to raise a voice. They fear victimisation from the management in general from the mafia in particular who has full support of some of the influential consultants.

Unlike other hospitals, no employee at PIMH was ready to speak on any of the issue due to fear of victimisation. When assured that their names would not be quoted, some agreed to discuss the prevailing scenario at PIMH.

One employee lamented at the situation prevailing at kitchen. “Mentally ill people are given substandard food. No one can think about giving such meal to anyone. The food is cooked in unhygienic conditions at kitchen. This practice is going on for years and nobody is ready to improve the situation”, said an employee working at one of the five male units.

“Corruption is at its peak at PIMH. No one can secure admission for his/her mentally sick relative without bribing the officials. Some consultants have touts in the garb of employees. People have no other option except to give bribe to touts or take patient back home after getting medicine or prescription at Emergency or OPD. Shortage of drugs is a routine these days and as such majority of the people leave the health facility after getting prescription,” said a doctor at OPD.

Another doctor working at one of the five male units lamented at pre-mature discharge of patients for accommodating new ones through touts. “Forcible discharge is a routine for creating space at wards for new patients.”

He also revealed the other side of the story relating to patients whose relatives either disappear or were not ready to take them home even after significant recovery.

“Administration has no other option except to keep these patients even after recovery. In most of the cases, condition of patients start deteriorating again,” he said.

“There are greater chances of improvement among patients who get regular visits from relatives. After securing admission, majority of the families stay away from the hospital to avoid taking patients back home after recovery. This is harmful for the patients. “The condition of a number of patients has aggravated after significant recovery.”

A ward boy lamented that there was no proper security arrangements that was causing patients to run away. He said that ward boys were performing additional duty of security besides routine job of taking patients to other wards for checkups. As there is no proper security, ward boys are held responsible for the incidents. Instead of improving security, the management asks the employees to take back escaped patients or face the inquiry.

“Employees have no other option except to spend time and money from own pocket for getting runaway patients back to the hospital.”