Govt wants mental departments in hospitals



HOSPITALS across the country may soon be forced to have a mental health department, Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi said yesterday.

He and other global health workers said they had learned of a clear explosion of mental health problems that occur worldwide, and South Africa was no exception.

Motsoaledi said the phenomenon was alarming, and he and other leaders at the International Aids Society in Amsterdam last month worked to give the UN priority to mental health sooner than later.

Motsoaledi said that this phenomenon had raised his ugly head in the criminal justice system, where lawyers defended criminals and referred them to mental health assessments.

"At the moment there are 1400 criminals languishing in mental health facilities awaiting their assessments, although some may just be criminals."

This had, according to Motsoaledi, created a backlog in the health sector because the country had few psychiatrists. In fact, the figures showed that there were only 700 psychiatrists, with 25% in the public sector.

To get rid of the backlog, he said that within a few months they would sign a contract under the National Health Insurance program to hire 51 psychiatrists and psychologists from the private sector to catch up.

"We are looking into the possibility of ensuring that every hospital in the country has a mental health department to deal with this scary phenomenon.

"We have also seen high rates of depression that affect medical health students.

"So much so that a group of students had asked me to solve the problem."

Mental health problems were again emphasized by Motsoaledi after receiving the report from Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba of the health ombudsman, in which allegations of mismanagement and violations of patients in the Tower Psychiatric Hospital and in the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center were investigated.

While handing over the report to the minister, Makgoba said the media reports about the gross human rights violations taking place in the center, such as by head of psychiatry in the center, Dr. Kiran Sukeri was alleged to be false. He spoke yesterday at the Health Standards Compliance office in Pretoria.

The investigation and the subsequent report of the ombuds service were fueled by reports in the media, which emerged on 4 March, in which it was alleged that gross human rights violations took place in the center in Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape.

An orchestra sounded after following the revelations, said Makgoba, giving the impression that the country was about to see another life that Esidimeni had in his hands.

From his findings, Makgoba, he did not find prima facie evidence of institutionalized, systematic or intentional violations of human rights by hospital staff.

He added that all stakeholders were of the opinion that no other degrading and inhuman treatments were observed or found, as Sukeri claimed.

News reports and accusations from Sukeri that 90 people had died in the center were also found to have been incorrect.

"In a period of eight years, 68 mental health patients died in the hospital and not with the forged and exaggerated total of 90 deaths reported in the media with Sukeri's collaboration."

Makgoba recommended that, since Sukeri had admitted his mistake, he should be reported to the SA Health Councils to consider his suspension of any practice and for disciplinary procedures against him to be instituted.

He also wants him to be accused of gross misconduct and incompetence and to write a public and unconditional apology to the nation and its peers in psychiatry.


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