Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Covid-19 adds pressure to SA's weak mental health system - psychiatrists

By African News Agency Time of article published Jun 15, 2020

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Johannesburg - Mental health patients are more likely to relapse on treatment while new cases will rise due to the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic, the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) said on Monday.

In a statement, SASOP said many psychiatric patients were at higher risk for the coronavirus due to co-morbid diseases and difficulties in following preventative measures such as wearing masks and adhering to physical distancing rules.

It urged public and private healthcare providers to maintain the availability of beds for psychiatric patients as they worked to build a large hospital bed network to cope with the disease outbreak.

“The twin peaks of an increased rate of Covid-19 amongst psychiatric patients and increased incidence of relapses and new psychiatric cases, is bound to have these two distinct groups of patients arriving at psychiatric facilities at the same time, and possibly in large numbers,” SASOP board member and public sector national convenor Dr Kagisho Maaroganye said.

Accommodating Covid-19 psychiatric patients in the same ward as psychiatric patients not suspected of having the virus would be “unacceptable, for both ethical and humanitarian reasons”, he warned.

Psychiatric patients were far more at risk of contracting Covid-19 than the general population due to their high levels of co-morbidities, Maaroganye said.

“The lifestyle of those suffering from mental illness increases their risk and the most frequent co-morbidities include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking, and addiction," he said.

"These medical conditions not only escalate the risk of contracting COVID-19 but also the risk of mortality once infected.”

 He said mental healthcare services were already burdened by crowded living conditions in psychiatric hospitals with shared dining and bathroom spaces, and were poorly-equipped especially in relation to protective equipment.

African News Agency/ANA

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's  special #Coronavirus page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit  sacoronavirus.co.za 

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