9 February 2023
Punjab Drug Rehabilitation Centres Union (PDRCU) has sought the immediate intervention of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to free them from the regressive policy enacted during the Congress regime due to which the drug rehabilitation centres being run in the private sector are on the verge of closure. PDRCU wants CM Mann to review the policy and hold its implementation, pending its review.
Members of a special committee set up by PDRCU to address the problem held a press meeting here about the issue. The members of the committee are also owners of rehab centres and mostly ex-addicts who have joined the mainstream. The members said that PDRCU has given many representations for revoking the policy to senior officials in the health department.
It was informed that as per the guidelines promulgated in 2011 on the intervention of the Hon’ble High Court, drug rehabilitation centres are required to have the facility of in-house counsellors.
Kunal Lakhanpal, a senior member of the committee said, “In 2020 the last Congress government in Punjab ignoring the 2011 High Court guidelines foisted a new policy on drug rehabilitation centres being run by private players. It mandates that every rehab centre should have a permanent psychiatrist, an MBBS doctor, and a nurse on its payroll. It’s illogical as no medicine is to be given at these centres. We admit people after detoxification. Such people are to be provided counselling. The idea is to make them mentally strong so that they don’t fall prey to drugs again.”
Angad Singh, a member of the committee said, “The new policy will lead to high operating costs, which we cannot meet given the fact that we run small centres and the fee charged from patients is also bare minimum, as the affected families, by and large, are poor.”
It is pertinent to state that under the policy some private rehab centres have already been served with closure notices. Some have even closed. There are cases where rehab centres have shifted from Punjab and set up bases in neighbouring states.
A committee member Sanjeev Sharma said, “In case the policy is enforced in its current form, as many as 74 private rehab centres will be shut down.”
“1000’s of patients in rehab will be in trouble and those awaiting rehab will also be left in the lurch. The closure of private rehab centres will leave over 2000 people jobless,” said Jarnail Singh, a member of the committee.
“According to the new amendment, we will need more than 520 psychiatrists registered with the Punjab Medical Council (PMC), and we don’t have so many Psychiatrists,” said Satnam Singh, another committee member.
“What is needed is just a visiting Psychiatrist and an MBBS doctor on call,” said committee member Amarjit Singh.
Committee member Gurwinder Singh Rimpi said, “The 2020 policy clauses in relation to rehab centres should be revoked and instead guidelines by Hon’ble High Court of 2011 should be enforced. The AAP government of Punjab should adopt the Delhi model for rehab centres.”
“The new policy states that every private rehab centre in Punjab should have 500 square yards minimum space, there will be major investments needed for this. What’s surprising is that the policy talks about a bio-waste license too, when there is no bio-waste generated, where is the need for such a license?” asked Amrinder, another member.
There are 4 categories of drug de-addiction centres in Punjab. Category 1 centres need to have psychiatrists, category 2 have OPDs where MBBS doctors are needed. The 3rd category of de-addiction-cum-rehab centres needs doctors and psychiatrists. The drug rehabilitation centres come in category 4.