NATIONAL Head of Mental Health, Dr Paul Orotoloa has called on the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to help facilitate the transition of mental health services being community oriented from its usual institutionally or hospital based approach.
Dr Orotoloa said, that services provided to mentally ill patients should be facilitated through the communities as 80 percent of all mentally ill patients are being cared for and looked after by their families in the communities.
“Medical personnel visit them (patients) and their families through our social rounds program, which is mostly designed to help rehabilitate patients who had been returned home to live within the communities and with their families.
“However there is still a mismatch as all mental health services are channelled through the hospital, and are designed in a way that patients would be required to be kept in hospital for long periods of time.
“This would totally be against the laws of the land and also against the rights of our clients. Some of them rehabilitate better when they are placed amongst family and friends inside the communities,” he said.
He clarified that only 10 percent of patients are referred and taken care of at the Kilu’ufi mental health wards, adding that the rest reside in their respective communities after being discharged by medical authorities.
“What the Ministry does is they give us the limited resources it gives us channelled through the hospitals and meant the hospitals, whereas community wise, nothing is being channelled to help rehabilitate these patients in the communities, as it should have been prioritized,” he said.
Dr Orotoloa said that he has on numerous occasions written to the Ministry in order to provide the Mental Health Division with additional support to help them carry out their work, however adding his cries fell on deaf ears.
“Take for instance our vehicles are all empty without fuel the past two weeks. We have missed four social round appointments with our clients, just because the Ministry feels that refuelling our vehicle again is an obstacle. Therefore we no longer can do our jobs, especially the social rounds.
“It is not that the Ministry neglects to assist, but rather because the message and level of understanding the community based approach of services has not been fully understood or made aware of,” he said.
Dr Orotoloa said, that the social rounds program kicked started in 2009 had seen tremendous success and improvement in patients.
“The social round is an outreach program that involves visits to patients’ house twice a week, see how they are and to hold awareness talks with their families and communities.
“We often clarify to families how important it is to take good care of mentally ill patients as they require 24 hours assistance,” Dr Orotoloa said.
Dr Orotoloa meanwhile called on those responsible to try and liaise with his division in finding extra means of dealing with such problems in the future.
By JEREMY INIFIRI