Increased substance abuse has been blamed for escalating the burden on psychiatric hospitals in the province where patient loads are outstripping beds. File picture: Brenton Geach/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Cape Town - Increased substance abuse has been blamed for escalating the burden on psychiatric hospitals in the province, where despite an increase in bed numbers, patient loads are outstripping the available beds.

This information is contained in the Health Department’s annual report for the 2018/2019 year, which was discussed by the standing committee on health in Parliament on Wednesday.

According to the report: “Acute and chronic intellectual disability and mental illness services are provided at Lentegeur, Stikland and Valkenberg hospitals and these include a range of therapeutic programmes.”

The total number of beds in psychiatric hospitals was increased by 150, as the three psychiatry intermediate care facilities were incorporated into their parent psychiatric hospitals and the number went up from 1700 beds to 1850.

Substance abuse has a bad impact on district hospitals where patients presented with substance-induced psychosis.

Dr Beth Engelbrecht, head of the provincial Health Department, said: “These conditions are related to the social environments of our citizens and the structural changes in society.”

The report said: “There’s a high number of patients in 72-hour observation wards. Psychiatric hospitals have increased their bed numbers to accommodate intermediate care services.”

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo told the committee that “the public health system is generally under pressure in the face of budget cuts, urbanisation and migration (of people) from other provinces.

“In addressing the growing demand for services, the department has also placed great emphasis on a new service delivery model - Community Oriented Primary Care, where health-care workers go to communities and households, extending the network of health care into patients’ homes and linking citizens to other parts of government services. The service model’s already been rolled out at 20 learning sites with more sites to be added across the province,” said Mbombo.

Under the heading “Challenges for the financial year under review,” the report said that though new buildings were being put up to try to meet the burden of cases, the process took time.

In a bid to deal with the situation, the department held a Mental Health Workshop in July 2018 at which it was decided that mental health should be seen as part of the broader health system and not as a separate issue.

Meanwhile, the department has a sub programme to deliver a specialist psychiatric hospital service for people with mental illness and intellectual disability, while providing a platform for the training of health workers.

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus