It’s more like a hotel

2013-10-17 00:00

AKESO Specialised Psychiatric Clinic in Pietermaritzburg recently re-launched its in-patient care clinic in Woodhouse Road with the opening of a new wing.

The new, 2 500-square-metre double-storey building, which was commissioned by the Department of Health last week, was purpose built at a cost of around R10 million.

The new building, which stands on 6 000-square-metres of land, increases Akeso’s capacity in the city with seven new offices for general practitioners and psychiatrists, two new group therapy rooms and five new wards that can accommodate 18 additional patients, bringing the total capacity to approximately 60 beds.

It has enabled the facility to accommodate resident psychiatrists on the premises. The focus of the building has been on comfort for patients, said Allan Sweidan, managing director of Akeso.

“We have tried to make it feel more like a hotel than a hospital,” he said.

“We feel the clinic should look like a place you would want to send someone you love for help.”

The clinic’s patients are primarily medical aid members whose medical aids fund a stay at the clinic for up to 21 days, he said.

Referred to the clinic by a psychiatrist, patients are able to be observed and assisted during their extended stay through an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach that includes occupational therapy and counselling with psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

Sweidan said that this enables the clinic’s staff to understand what a patient needs and he pointed out that the facility’s “model goes beyond containment. We change the momentum of the direction of people’s lives”.

After their three-week stay, patients are referred to appropriate out-patient facilities. Akeso also provides an on-site support group after-care service for clinic patients and the community.

“Akeso,” said the clinic’s manager Nathan Rogerson, “is a Greek word that means ‘change’. We want to be pioneers in the field of psychiatric hospital care, a place of refuge and safety, a transformational place. This is a space to help people rebuild their lives.”

Rogerson is an experience clinical psychologist who previously worked at Underberg rehabilitation clinic Riverview Manor.

There is room for growth in future too, said Sweidan, and Akeso has plans to build a dedicated adolescent care unit on the site within the next two years.

Incredibly, “there is only one licensed adolescent bed in KZN,” he divulged.

“Adolescents who need help have to go to Johannesburg or to Cape Town, or go into an adult facility — which is inappropriate.”

A geriatric psychiatry facility at Akeso’s Pietermaritzburg site is planned for the future too.

Akeso’s Pietermaritzburg clinic was opened in 2011, on the premises of what used to be The Gables Country Inn, near the Scottsville race course in Pietermaritzburg.

Akeso also has psychiatric clinics in Cape Town, Parktown, Randburg and Alberton.

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