Psychiatric care in Gauteng in a dire state - Bloom

2017-08-17 20:14
DA's Jack Bloom says that psychiatric care in Gauteng is in a dire state. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

DA's Jack Bloom says that psychiatric care in Gauteng is in a dire state. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg – Psychiatric care in Gauteng is in a dire state due to unsuitable infrastructure and a shortage of psychiatric wards, DA MPL Jack Bloom said on Thursday.

"Instead of dedicated secure psychiatric wards, patients are being put into other wards and this causes problems like people jumping out of windows and psychiatric patients allegedly raping other patients," he said in a statement.

He said the Life Esidimeni tragedy had highlighted the plight of vulnerable patients.

"I think we have a crisis here and we need to have a proper environment for psychiatric patients to recover, properly trained staff and there are funds to do this."

He was responding to a 22-page reply to questions about psychiatric facilities in Gauteng he received from health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa.

He said that over 80 Esidimeni patients were still in unsuitable conditions at Weskoppies hospital. Over 100 patients that had been accommodated at the Life Esidimeni facility died after the Gauteng health department transferred them to under-equipped and unregistered NGOs between May and June 2016. This was done in a bid to save money.

Bloom said there were only 1 058 psychiatric beds to service 13.5 million people in Gauteng, a staggering shortage. Gauteng public hospitals admitted 18 387 psychiatric patients last year, and 24% of them were not placed in dedicated psychiatric wards.

There should be a total of 3780 beds.

In some cases, there was more than enough money, but backlogs were created by incompetent departments. He said the infrastructure and development department was mentioned countless times in Ramokgopa’s reply as not having carried out renovations to dilapidated infrastructure in many hospitals across Gauteng.

He said some hospitals were big enough to do their own infrastructure and maintenance without relying on the department.

"With good management, planning and decent contractors, we can make a huge improvement," he said.

Even facilities at the province’s four specialised mental hospitals - Cullinan, Weskoppies, Sterkfontein, and Tara - were unable to cater for mentally-ill patients due to structural faults.

Bloom suggested that facilities with no space for psychiatric wards convert under-used wards to accommodate mentally-ill patients, as had been done at South Rand Hospital.

Other problems included plumbing issues, which meant patients could not wash themselves, and, in one hospital, an erratic electricity supply for patients needing shock therapy.

He said only Steve Biko, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Bertha Gxowa, and Kalafong hospitals were in decent conditions. 

Read more on:    da  |  jack bloom  |  gwen ramokgopa  |  health

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