CHENNAI: Patients at the Industrial Therapy Centre of the Institute (ITC) of Mental Health cultivate and sell vegetables at a new outlet located in the centre of the outpatient building in the hospital premises. It faces the Medavakkam Tank Road. For 18 months after Cyclone Vardah, the shop operated out of a room in the outpatient wing, a hospital worker said.
Dr. Venkatesh, a senior doctor at the IHM said, “Once the patients recover from their illness, they are put into rehabilitation activities. Patients who are able to work in the gardening section are made to practice cultivation of vegetables.” He said that a gardener has been appointed to train the patients. He guides them with harvesting and planting the vegetables.
The main vegetables grown here are brinjals, lady’s fingers, varieties of snake gourds and bananas. After harvesting, these vegetables are sent to the ITC shop where they are sold with the items from other sections. Notebooks, gunny bags, handicrafts and cardboard files are among the earliest items sold at the outlet.
“The other sections of the ITC include a bakery unit where the patients make breads. The breads are sold both at ITC shop and to other hospitals. A special ITC unit for female patients trains them to make bangles and small toys,” said Dr. Venkatesh.
He said that special tokens are given to the patients working in these ITC units so they can get food, water and other essentials. The tokens are substitutes for money and can be used in the IMH canteen or other ITC shops. “The tokens have special discounts. Patients can get things for half the price. A Dosa worth Rs 15 can be purchased for Rs 7 using the token, Dr. Venkatesh said.
The ITC shops are run by the hospital staff from the social work department. Trained patients can also run the shops. “The stock is purchased by people from within the hospital as well as outsiders. Whoever crosses the outpatient building can see the shop. In fact, the day before yesterday, a man from Madipakkam, around 8 kms away from the hospital, came to purchase the vegetables from our shop,” Dr. Venkatesh said.