Dearth of men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties re­vealed


PSY­CHI­ATRIC pa­tients were still cared for in in­sti­tu­tions built be­fore 1994, the ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing into the death of 118 men­tal health pa­tients heard yes­ter­day.

In ad­di­tion, the govern­ment’s bid to build new fa­cil­i­ties had failed, said na­tional De­part­ment of Health’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral Pre­cious Mat­soso.

She was giv­ing ev­i­dence on the fourth day of the hear­ings chaired by former deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“When I look at the fa­cil­i­ties, these fa­cil­i­ties were built be­fore 1994, am I right? Cul­li­nan, Sterk­fontein, or Weskop­pies – the names tell you they were built be­fore 1994. Have we built any af­ter 1994, for men­tal health in par­tic­u­lar?” Moseneke asked Mat­soso.

She said: “An at­tempt to build one, I can say, was an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter. This is a fa­cil­ity that was built in North­ern Cape. It con­sumed huge re­sources, (but) was not ap­pro­pri­ate for men­tal health care.

“With the pro­vi­sion in the Men­tal Health Act, that we should not move to­wards keep­ing peo­ple in in­sti­tu­tions, rather move to­wards com­mu­nity-based men­tal health care, we should rather make in­vest­ments in our pri­mary health­care fa­cil­i­ties, our ex­ist­ing health fa­cil­i­ties where out­pa­tients’ ser­vices are ap­pro­pri­ate. The in­vest­ment can­not be in build­ing more fa­cil­i­ties where peo­ple are go­ing to be in­sti­tu­tion­alised…”

Moseneke pointed out that in spite of the pol­icy, men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties were still be­ing used widely.

“But we are still us­ing clin­ics, we are us­ing Life Esidi­meni – I have seen it here in your report back. Once there are dif­fi­cul­ties with com­mu­nity-based health care, the de­part­ment ran right back to those in­sti­tu­tions. So the ques­tion that begs an an­swer is, don’t we need a mix of in­sti­tu­tions and the pub­lic health care fa­cil­i­ties?” Moseneke asked Mat­soso.

The di­rec­tor-gen­eral con­ceded that the coun­try did need men­tal health in­sti­tu­tions.

“Pre­cisely, we do. A bal­ance be­tween fa­cil­i­ties that we call fa­cil­i­ties for acute care, for men­tal health, and those that are for long-term care. This is the dif­fer­ence be­tween your Weskop­pies, Sterk­fontein ver­sus these other fa­cil­i­ties,” said Mat­soso.

Moseneke said: “So the ques­tion still re­mains – do we need fa­cil­i­ties for acute and longterm care? Do we need more of them, so that we won’t have the temp­ta­tion to move them (men­tally ill pa­tients) out of clin­ics, to move them out of Life Esidi­meni?”

Mat­soso said the coun­try did need more long-term care fa­cil­i­ties.

Pa­tients died af­ter be­ing moved from the Life Esidi­meni fa­cil­i­ties last year. – ANA

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