Committee's report seeks to shut down 110-year-old psychiatric "house of horrors" in Mumbai

February 15, 2011

The 110-year-old Masina Hospital – which boasts of one of the city’s foremost psychiatry wards – has been slammed by the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) for rampant violations of the Mental Health Act of 1987. 

The hospital has been asked to put its act together or face a shutdown. 

A report filed by the five-member committee, appointed by DHS, states that the hospital has been illegally detaining patients in its psychiatry ward and forcefully administering psychotropic drugs to the detainees. 

The head of the psychiatry ward, Dr. Yusuf Matcheswala, however is of the opinion that these are only “minor drawbacks,” which do not warrant a shutdown or similar punitive measures. 

The matter came to light after Kemp’s Corner resident Pushpa Tolani filed a complaint with the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission (MHRC) claiming that her friend Neela Shete was detained in the hospital illegally. 

Tolani in her complaint pointed out that many other patients like Shete were detained without a reception order from the district magistrate - a mandate under the Mental Health Act. 

Shete, 55, a resident of Altamount Road was admitted in July. She was discharged two months later. “The doctors’ claim that she had schizophrenia may or may not be true. However, they cannot detain any adult for such a long time without a reception order,” said Tolani, adding that Shete has been untraceable since her discharge. “They have similarly detained many patients without their consent and in all possibility, they are administering drugs which may be worsening their condition,” she alleged. 

Dr. Matcheswala however rubbished these claims saying, “Shete was my patient for the last three years. Her admission for two months was also voluntary and we had not detained her illegally.” He added that he has not heard from Shete since September. 

Meanwhile, the MHRC refused to take Tolani’s allegations lightly and directed the DHS to file a detailed report after an investigation. “After surveying the hospital and cross checking all the allegations we learnt that about 20 more patients were detained illegally at the hospital. 

They were administered treatment which has been banned, and their relatives were overcharged. Often the patients are being drugged even when it was not required,” said Dr. Sanjay Kumavat, who is heading the DHS committee. 

The committee including Kumavat, advocate Chaya Haldankar, clinical psychologist Dr. Vinayak Mahajan and psychiatrist Dr. Geeta Joshi personally met these patients. 

While Dr. Matcheswala said that he was aware of the enquiry, and vowed to “rectify” the “shortcomings” once the report from DHS was made available to him, Dr. Kumawat and the investigating committee were in no mood to for any leniency. 

Psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswala 

“If the hospital fails to straighten up in the stipulated time, their licence will be revoked and the mental health facility will be shut down. The matter is also under the purview of human rights commission. If they are found guilty of violation of the act, as per IPC they can face imprisonment up to five years and cancellation of licence,” said Kumavat. 

“Ours is the only psychiatric ward in the city. We cannot close down because of such minor drawbacks,” said a belligerent Dr. Matcheswala.


 What’s ailing Masina hospital 

♦ Detaining patients without consent: “Ideally a patient can come voluntarily or following a court order. However, patients here were brought in a van at relatives’ request. There are cases of relatives sending patients away due to vested interest,” said Kumavat, and consent taken later. 

♦ Unqualified staff, inadequate facilities: The report says the hospital has few psychiatric nurses and other professionals. Despite a 40-bed licence, some 100 patients are kept without permission. 

♦ Forcing unnecessary therapies, including shock therapy: Patients are administered treatment banned long ago.  Shock treatment is often used despite use of tranquillisers. One patient is given 35 sessions of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which is unnecessary.  “As patients are unaware, the hospital administers almost all non required treatment and makes money for itself and pharma firms, by extending their stay,” said Dr Vinayak Mahajan, committee member. “We have prescriptions of unwanted medicines,” he said. 

♦ Patients seldom rehabilitated: Hardly any patients are being rehabilitated. The hospital only concentrates on active psychiatric cases. They are not maintaining patient records and case papers.

Source: Sobiya Moghul and Jyoti Shelar, "City’s foremost mental hospital uses banned therapies, detains patients illegally," Ahmedabad Mirror, January 4, 2011. 


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