Have your say on mental health amendment bill

2013-07-15 00:00

THE public, business and non-profit organisations have two weeks to make written submissions to the Mental Health Care Amendment Bill.

The announcement was made by the KwaZulu-Natal chairperson of the Health Portfolio Committee, Maggie Govender, during a public participation hearing held at the KZN legislature on Friday.

The new bill seeks to amend the Mental Health Care Act of 2002, to: add a new section to provide for delegation of powers by the director-general to officials in the national Health Department to:

• Determine transfers of state patients from detention centres to health establishments; and

• Review the mental health status of patients.

Muzi Mzila of Mzila HM Incorporated attorneys suggested that the new bill should also look at ways of protecting the business interests of mentally ill patients who own businesses, but have no one to run them on their behalf.

Other issues raised by health officials from all parts of the province was that police needed to be educated about the new bill. This was necessary because there were times when the police refused to handcuff sedated patients in order for them to be transported to the various institutions, said one attendee.

The officials said members of the Emergency Medical Rescue Services sometimes refused to transport these patients.

Another matter to address was mental patients roaming the streets.

Officials of the national department were also told patients needed to be protected from abuse in their families.

The bill must also address how the staff should handle pregnant patients.

Health Department senior manager Jimmy Mthethwa said this was a societal issue and they needed the support of everyone in the community to end the stigma associated with mental health.

“We are working with Operation Sukuma Sakhe, an initiative by the premier, to reach all the areas because we cannot fight this alone,” he said.

Members of the public have until July 26 to send their written submissions. Hard copies of the bill can be found at the KZN Legislature administration building, 244 Langalibalele Street and at municipal offices in KZN.

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