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DA says mental healthcare in SA is woefully lacking

Mental health care sketch diagram

Mental health care sketch diagram

Published Jun 29, 2022

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Johannesburg - Only 0.3% of people with mental health issues are able to receive help at public and private mental health care facilities.

The National Department of Health, in response to questions tabled in Parliament by the DA, revealed that 6 566 703 people in South Africa need professional mental health intervention for common mental disorders. Of these more than 6.5 million people, 1 292 991 of those aged 15 and older need care for severe psychiatric conditions.

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The department further revealed that South Africa has 19 752 beds available in public and private mental health care facilities (14 060 beds in the public sector and 5 692 in the private sector) for people with mental disorders.

DA health spokesperson Michele Clarke said this means that only 0.3% of people with mental health issues were able to receive help – 332 patients for every bed available.

Clarke added that the country also had a massive shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists in the public health sector.

According to the Department of Health, there are a total of 451 psychologists within the public sector with about 187 vacancies available.

The department revealed that the vacancy rate in the Eastern Cape was 83.33% with 10 vacant posts out of 12 total posts, followed by Limpopo with a vacancy rate of 82.86%, with 29 vacant posts out of 35, while the vacancy rate in Mpumalanga was 80% with 12 vacant posts out of 15.

The Northern Cape vacancy rate was 66.67% with four vacant posts out of six, the Free State vacancy rate was 50% with four vacant posts out of eight, the KwaZulu-Natal vacancy rate was 28.57% with 14 vacant posts out of 48, the North West vacancy rate was 12.77% with six vacant posts out of 47, and the Western Cape rate was 1% with one vacant post out of 100.

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In response to the questions, the department revealed that Eastern Cape and Northern Cape public facilities only employed two psychiatrists respectively, Mpumalanga employed three psychiatrists and the Free State State four psychiatrists. Limpopo employs 11 psychiatrists, KwaZulu-Natal employed 35 psychiatrists, the North West 41 psychiatrists and the Western Cape 99 psychiatrists.

With a population total of 6 676 590 in the Eastern Cape, Clarke said this put the ratio of psychiatric specialists to the population in the province at a 1:3 338 295. The ratio was 1:1 581 194 in Mpumalanga where the population total was 4 743 584.

“South Africans deserve better care from the Department of Health,” Clarke said.

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The party said it would submit follow-up parliamentary questions regarding the vacancy rate and also request the department’s urgent appearance before the parliamentary portfolio committee on health regarding their plans for intervention.

“It is hardly surprising that South Africa is facing a mental health crisis, with the country’s economy in tatters, unemployment lines growing daily, and severe systemic failures in almost all public sectors and state-owned enterprises. Government needs to ensure that all South Africans have the help they need when they need it,” Clarke said.

@Chulu_M

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