Integrating the mentally ill into society – 222 Cured patients stranded

More than two thirds of the patients on admission at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital who have fully recovered are still stuck at the hospital because their families have refused to reconnect with them.
Some 222 out of the hospital’s 333 patients on admission ought to be home with their families, but, unfortunately, they have been abandoned by their families.

The hospital authorities say all attempts to get the families to reconnect with their fully recovered loved ones have proved futile.

The situation has become a drain on the hospital’s facilities and a hindrance to new admissions.

The Director of the hospital, Dr Pinaman Appau, made this known in a speech read on his behalf at theinauguration of the hospital’s canteen built by the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) in Accra yesterday.

“Assuming it costs GH¢10 a day to feed a patient, GH¢66,600 will be required to feed these abandoned patients monthly. This is too expensive to finance and sustain.

“However, the family members of these clients are willing and ready to come for their bodies when they die. We encourage family members not to shun their kin with mental health conditions. No one is immune to mental health disorders,” he said.

Mental health disorder

The director cited a World Health Organisation (WHO) report which estimates that mental health disorders constitute about 14 per cent of the global disease burden, and that around 20 per cent of the world’s children and adolescents have mental health conditions.

He said there should be a collective resolve to appreciate mental health as a medical condition and not discriminate against people suffering from it.

“This will help improve the management of mental health conditions. Institutional care alone is not the panacea for managing mental health disorders. Stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and stop a person from getting the needed help,” he said.

The hospital

Dr Appau said the hospital was 117-year-old, with a staff strength of 855 (including 65 temporary staff), about 600 of whom report for work daily.

He said over 200 patients, relatives, visitors and students patronised the hospital’s services on a daily basis.

That meant that besides the average of 360 patients on admission, about 800 people — made up of staff, patients and other visitors — utilised the hospital on a daily basis, he explained.

He said, unfortunately, there had not been any decent place to be used as a canteen for staff and visitors since the hospital was built.

Dr Apau noted that day in, day out staff were often seen crossing the streets, at the risk of their lives, in search of food.

“Aside from the danger to their lives, the situation is also unproductive, as many man-hours are lost in that regard. Also, our cherished clients, notably at the outpatients department (OPD) level, do not have access to any place within the hospital to buy snacks or food when they visit us,” he said.

Temporary shed

The director noted that in 2019, the management of the hospital desperately erected a shed near the OPD as a stop-gap measure, where it sold food and snacks to staff and visitors, while efforts were made to secure a permanent decent place which would meet the needs of everyone.

“We were, therefore, very glad when the NPRA approached the hospital administration to fund a project of our choice. Let me quickly add that we were fortunate and pleasantly relieved that they chose the canteen from the many projects outlined in our programme of work.

“The construction of the canteen within the hospital’s premises will not only boost the morale and motivation of the staff, as they will not have to go out of the facility to look for food, but productivity is also expected to increase,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority (MHA), Professor Akwasi Osei, said there was the need for a collaborative effort on mental health issues.

“The statistics that have been given show that more than 1,000 people come to the hospital every day and so there should be a collaborative approach to appreciate mental health as a medical condition,” he said.

He urged other corporate bodies to emulate the gesture of the NPRA and assist the hospital to build a mortuary.

The project

The CEO of the NPRA, Mr Hayford Attah Krufi, said the choice of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital for the project was obvious.

“The hospital and its operations are so dear to us, as an authority. Furthermore, we are neighbours, by way of proximity. We are all aware that in recent years the delivery of mental health services in Ghana has expanded substantially, especially since the passing of the Mental Health Act in 2012.

“This has brought some pressure on facilities in mental health institutions in the country, including this very one. This little contribution, we believe, will, therefore, help alleviate some of your plight.

“I am told this hospital was established in 1904 and had never had a canteen. Almost all the over 700 members of staff and over 100 visitors have to go outside the walls to find food for themselves, a situation which, I believe, thwarts the smooth progress of work,” he said.


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