The prestigious National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), based in Bangalore, capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka is unable to cope with the pressure on its services.
Half the patients get free treatment in this public hospital, while others pay rates that are cheaper than what the private hospitals charge.
Sukdev Belvansi, a teacher from a village in Madhya Pradesh, has frequent bouts of seizures. Having tried in vain elsewhere, the 35-year-old Mr. Belvansi went to NIMHANS, but for 10 days he was not able to meet the doctor. Every morning he stood braving the cold weather. But he was not among those lucky to meet the doctor in the Out-Patient Department.
On Thursday, Belvansi, along with a group of other patients, sought the intervention of the institute's Resident Medical Officer (RMO). It was only then that he was able to meet the doctor. "In these 10 days, I have already spent Rs. 2,000 towards lodging. The RMO understood my condition and arranged an appointment," he said.
Doctors at the institute said they are forced to limit the number of patients. "This is a super-speciality hospital ... we cannot differentiate between a person with a headache and a person with a tumour in the brain. Both require equal attention," a doctor said.
Despite restricting the number to 170, doctors have been treating about 200 patients a day, authorities say.
Among those who were waiting for the RMO's attention was 62-year-old Yenkamma, who had come with her son, Mallikarjun, all the way from Yadgir near Gulbarga. "She was asked to come today for the treatment of her left hand. Movement has been restricted after she fell down. She loses her balance quite often," said Mallikarjun. He arrived early in the morning and came to NIMHANS around 7.30 a.m. "Around 8 a.m. a security guard sent us away stating that the quota for the day was over," he said despondently.
B. Jagadish of Chintamani in Kolar district, who has come to refer his aunt, said it had become difficult to get tokens on Monday, Thursday and Friday when patients are usually given treatment.
"It's just a lottery ... you have to get the token despite being asked to come," he said. Patients are forced to make repeated visits as there are no other hospitals to provide us treatment at a cheaper cost. Nearly 50 patients went back on Thursday morning, he noted.