Plight of Ingut­sheni pa­tients needs ur­gent re­dress

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

MEN­TAL ill­ness is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a se­ri­ous prob­lem in Zim­babwe due to a num­ber of fac­tors. One of the ma­jor causes of men­tal dis­tur­bances is drug and al­co­hol abuse, with many peo­ple turn­ing to sub­stance abuse as a form of es­cape from the daily rig­ors of life. Although the ex­act cause of most men­tal ill­nesses is not known, it is be­com­ing clear through re­search over the years that most of these con­di­tions are caused by a com­bi­na­tion of bi­o­log­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors.

Bi­o­log­i­cal causes range from ge­net­ics (hered­ity) where ill­ness can be passed down gen­er­a­tions through genes; in­fec­tions linked to brain dam­age, pre­na­tal dam­age and ex­po­sure to tox­ins. Psy­cho­log­i­cal causes of men­tal ill­ness in­clude se­vere trauma such as phys­i­cal, emo­tional or sex­ual abuse while en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors range from di­vorce, death, a dys­func­tional fam­ily life, poverty, feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy, low self-es­teem, anx­i­ety, anger or lone­li­ness.

Sub­stance abuse is listed among the en­vi­ron­men­tal causes of men­tal ill health and of late, this is con­tribut­ing to the ma­jor­ity of men­tal cases in Zim­babwe. De­spite an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple be­ing hos­pi­talised with men­tal health is­sues, the Govern­ment re­mains in­ca­pac­i­tated to deal with the prob­lem. In­sti­tu­tions such as Ingut­sheni Cen­tral Hospi­tal in Bulawayo are strug­gling to cope due to pal­try bud­get al­lo­ca­tions from Trea­sury against grow­ing de­mand for their ser­vices.

The hospi­tal re­quires at least $200 000 a month to cater for the needs of more than 600 pa­tients but is get­ting less than a quar­ter of this amount from Govern­ment. What is com­pound­ing the sit­u­a­tion at Ingut­sheni is that the in­sti­tu­tion does not charge for its ser­vices and op­er­ates en­tirely on the measly al­lo­ca­tion from Govern­ment and the benev­o­lence of dona­tions from well-wish­ers. Men­tal pa­tients eat a spe­cial kind of diet due to the med­i­ca­tion they take and food sup­plies at Ingut­sheni of­ten run out leav­ing pa­tients on the verge of star­va­tion.

Yes­ter­day, we re­ported that the hospi­tal had run out of seda­tive drugs which are cru­cial in sup­press­ing vi­o­lent be­hav­iour among psy­chi­atric pa­tients. Staff at the hospi­tal said last week, two nurses were beaten up by pa­tients who are not be­ing given drugs to calm them down. “There are no drugs to se­date the men­tally ill pa­tients at the hospi­tal. Ma­trons are forcing nurses to work un­der these con­di­tions and threat­en­ing to dis­miss them if they don’t com­ply.

“Last week two nurses were beaten up by vi­o­lent pa­tients and the mat­ter was swept un­der the car­pet. The lim­ited tran­quilis­ers that are avail­able have ex­pired but they are still be­ing ad­min­is­tered on pa­tients yet they don’t have any ef­fect,” said a source. Hospi­tal au­thor­i­ties have on sev­eral oc­ca­sions ap­pealed for dona­tions from well-wish­ers to cater for the needs of pa­tients at the in­sti­tu­tion.

Health and Child Care Min­is­ter Dr David Parireny­atwa re­cently ex­pressed con­cern over acute food and medicine short­ages at Ingut­sheni and said the Govern­ment was strug­gling to pro­vide for the in­creas­ing num­ber of pa­tients at the in­sti­tu­tion. The trou­bles fac­ing the in­sti­tu­tion have been com­pounded by some of the pa­tients who have since made the hospi­tal their per­ma­nent home for var­i­ous rea­sons.

We feel the plight of pa­tients at Ingut­sheni is grave and re­quires ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion by well­wish­ers and the Govern­ment. We es­pe­cially ap­peal to the busi­ness com­mu­nity and other char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions to come to­gether and save the pa­tients at Ingut­sheni. The dire sit­u­a­tion at the hospi­tal where tran­quilis­ers and other seda­tives have run out is dan­ger­ous as it ex­poses staff to vi­o­lent pa­tients.

Their work­ing en­vi­ron­ment is no longer ten­able and mea­sures should im­me­di­ately be put in place to en­sure that the drugs are se­cured as soon as pos­si­ble. Au­thor­i­ties at the in­sti­tu­tion should also do more to high­light the plight of the hospi­tal so that help can be sought and se­cured promptly. It is not help­ful to con­ceal a grave mat­ter such as the acute short­age of seda­tives at an in­sti­tu­tion which deals with men­tal health.

We have re­ported sev­eral times else­where on these pages, hor­rific mur­ders com­mit­ted by men­tal pa­tients and the courts have al­ways averred that they’re not re­spon­si­ble for their ac­tions. Ma­trons at Ingut­sheni, who are forcing nurses to work un­der these con­di­tions and threat­en­ing to dis­miss them if they do not com­ply, are putting the lives of their un­der­lings in grave dan­ger. Govern­ment should en­sure that the sit­u­a­tion at Ingut­sheni is not al­lowed to get out of hand by im­me­di­ately avail­ing drugs to treat men­tal pa­tients.

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