Inadequate facilities for psychiatric patients at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital

Jack Bloom (Image by da-gpl.co.za)

Inadequate facilities for mental health patients at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto has led to one death and to injuries to patients and staff.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, the following incidents have occurred at the hospital since January last year:

22 July 2016 – a 34-year-old patient jumped out of a bathroom window and died.

24 December 2016 – a 13-year-old patient ran out of the ward and accessed Ante Natal Ward 1st floor, jumped out of the balcony from the passage door and sustained injuries to his right wrist.

18 January 2017 – a 23-year-old patient injured his head after running out the Ward post admission, pulling out the restraints and running towards the second-floor balcony.

According to Ramokgopa, this district hospital has the obligation to attend to psychiatric/mental health patients for at least 72 hours observation, and she claims that all legal requirements for their treatment are met.

She says that “for a district hospital all patients can be mixed in a medical ward provided that appropriate medication is administered.”

This is surely not satisfactory and contrasts with the situation at the South Rand District Hospital which does have separate wards for psychiatric patients.

Earlier this week on Monday a security guard at Bheki Mlangeni was injured in the eye by an unrestrained psychiatric patient in the casualty ward.

The department has been slow to take extra security measures and set up a separate ward for psychiatric patients.

Ramokgopa says that two 6-bed cubicles have been identified to accommodate psychiatric patients and possible hazards are being removed to ensure the safety of patients.

Extra security and trained staff will also be allocated, but all of these measures should have been done long ago and could have prevented the one death and the injuries that have been suffered.

This highlights the continuing general neglect of mental health patients in Gauteng.

  AUTHOR
Jack Bloom MPL - DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health

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