Dr. RML Hospital Launches India’s First Transgender-Exclusive OPD

India’s first dedicated transgender out-patient department clinic at Dr. RML Hospital is striving to provide inclusive and easily accessible healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community. The facility, which opened earlier this month and operates on Fridays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., boasts a panel of doctors from various departments such as medicine, urology, psychiatry, dermatology, and burns. The clinic aims to address the difficulties faced by transgender individuals when accessing healthcare, including discomfort, fear of discrimination, and social apathy.

One patient, Ruchi (name changed), a 23-year-old seeking sex reassignment surgeries (SRS), explains, “Coming to a medical establishment as a patient often translates into being harassed or humiliated. Both the public and even some medical/support staff are still unable to accept us as human beings who are in this space for treatment.” The clinic provides a supportive environment where patients can access healthcare with dignity, incorporating tailor-made infrastructure and trained medical staff.

Dr. Ajay Shukla, director of RML Hospital, explains that the initiative was developed to address the difficulties the transgender community faces when seeking healthcare services. He recognizes the discomfort, fear of discrimination, and social apathy that discourage transgender individuals from accessing healthcare. The clinic’s aim is to provide a safe, welcoming environment for this underserved population.

Veronica, another patient at the clinic, emphasizes the importance of educating staff members about transgender protocols and gender sensitivity. She recalls a previous visit where a hospital guard made an insensitive remark, highlighting the need for government intervention. Private hospitals are often unaffordable for transgender individuals, with sex reassignment surgeries ranging from ₹2 to ₹5 lakh for male-to-female (MTF) transitions and ₹4 to ₹8 lakh for female-to-male (FTM) transitions. Veronica believes that the government’s support will significantly benefit the transgender community.

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Anamika, a member of a local NGO assisting the LGBTQ+ community in accessing healthcare at the government facility, stresses the significance of building trust and treating transgender patients with humanity. Many members of the community have experienced shabby treatment at healthcare facilities, which exposes them to dangerous situations. Anamika’s goal is to change this narrative and ensure that routine medical procedures, such as registering at a hospital, getting blood collected, and receiving reports, become easier for transgender individuals. She acknowledges the stigma attached to the community and the challenges they face when claiming their rights as citizens.

The clinic offers a range of services and facilities to meet the needs of transgender patients. These include free treatment and investigations, sex change surgery, endocrinology facilities for clinical-psychological assessments, plastic surgery and dermatology for related procedures, and pediatric care. The facility even provides a separate gender-neutral/transgender washroom to ensure inclusivity and comfort.

According to the 2011 census, India’s transgender population stands at approximately 4.88 lakh. While some states provide wards and private medical care facilities for the LGBTQ+ community, this government venture is the first at the central level. Transgender individuals face a disproportionately high burden of disease, including mental, sexual, and reproductive health issues. They also have low rates of access to healthcare due to a range of factors such as violence, legal barriers, stigma, and discrimination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively working to address the health needs of transgender people, particularly regarding HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. WHO emphasizes the provision of gender-affirming care, health worker education and training, healthcare for victims of interpersonal violence, supportive health policies, and legal recognition of self-determined gender identities.

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Despite the Supreme Court of India recognizing transgender people as the third gender in 2014, the transgender population remains marginalized. They often face ostracization from society, and even their own families view them as burdens. While transgender individuals share many health needs with the general population, they also require specialized care such as gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery.

The establishment of the dedicated transgender out-patient department clinic at Dr. RML Hospital marks an important step towards addressing the healthcare disparities faced by the transgender community in India. By providing inclusive, accessible, and dignified healthcare services, this clinic strives to improve the well-being and quality of life for transgender individuals.

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