Twenty patients of Pabna Mental Hospital are unable to return home even after completing treatment, because of the neglect of their relatives.
Some of these patients were admitted at the hospital under false addresses.
Many have spent more than two decades inside the four walls of a hospital ward. In some cases, family members even refused to receive the dead body of a patient.
Meanwhile, There has been no initiative as yet for modernising Pabna Mental Hospital, the only specialised mental hospital in Bangladesh. The hospital suffers from an acute shortage of doctors and support staff, and mental health care services are being disrupted as a result.
The 500-bed hospital is being run by a team of five doctors.
This correspondent visited the mental hospital to get in touch with the patients, and learn about their lives.
Sayeed Hossain, who hails from Maghbazar area of Dhaka, is a patient at the hospital. His relatives admitted him there on July 22, 1996.
More than two decades have passed since then.
Sayeed could not return home even after successfully undergoing treatment, as his family members admitted him at the hospital under a false address.
He was 36 years old at the time of his admission, he is now 56.
Sayeed misses his family dearly, but he has no means to reach them.
Sayeed, Kazi Akramul Zaman from Pallabi area of Dhaka and Dolly Khatun from Momenabad area of Pabna are among the 20 patients presently stranded at the hospital despite undergoing treatment successfully.
They spend their days praying that someone will come to take them home. Decades pass, but the wait never ends.
After taking care of the patients for decades, the nurses and other support staff at the hospital have formed a bond with them.
Talking to the Dhaka tribune, Pabna Mental Hospital Senior Nurse Maya Mondol said: “These patients consider us family, and we treat them as we would treat a close family member.”
“Addresses submitted during the admission of a patient in the hospital initially checks out, but later becomes untraceable. Some relatives even refuse to receive the body of the patient that had passed away,”said Delwar Hossain, member of Patient Information Committee in Pabna Mental Hospital.
To curb the inhuman treatment of mental patients, doctors at the hospital spoke in favour of raising awareness for changing the the way people view these patients.
An alarming number of family members just abandon the patient at the hospital. Some relatives do not even show up to receive the body of deceased patient.
If no relatives show up, the hospital authorities arrange a proper funeral for the patients that pass away.
Dr Shafqat wahid, an assistant professor of Pabna Mental Hospital, and also a consultant, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Mental patients must be treated in a sincere and dignified way. Initiatives should be taken to raise awareness over the issue.”
The hospital is facing an acute shortage of doctors and support staff, which in turn is disrupting the health care services there.
Pabna Mental Hospital is currently being operated by five medical officers, and two assistant professors of Pabna Medical College. A total of 189 posts among 542 positions are currently vacant at facility.
Dr Tanmay Prokash Biswas, director of Pabna Mental Hospital, told the Dhaka Tribune: “More doctors must be appointed to provide quality health care service at this 500-bed treatment facility.
“The hospital also needs a Halfway House [a centre for helping former psychiatric patients to adjust to life in society],” he added.
Dr Tanmay Prokash Biswas confirmed that a total of 20 patents are currently stranded at the hospital, despite successfully undergoing treatment.
“The hospital authority is doing its best to support the patients, but when their relatives refuse to take them home, it becomes a problem,” he added.
The hospital is supporting these patients regardless of the costs associated with it, as these people have nowhere else to go.
Pabna Mental Hospital was established in Sheetla House area of Pabna on 1957, as a treatment centre for mental patients. Two years later in 1959, the hospital was relocated to a 111.25 acres of area in Hemayetpur.
The hospital started its journey with six beds, which was later gradually increased to 500 beds.