Eastern Cape facility for mentally ill ‘like something out of a horror movie’

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Housing the mentally ill in a condemned building with little security sounds like something out of a horror movie. But, says a Spotlight report, for the patients and staff of the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (CMH) Mental Health Unit this is not a movie; it’s reality. The building, in the heart of Mdantsane, East London, is in disrepair: windows are broken, there’s exposed electrical wiring and abandoned medical equipment. There is no psychiatrist, security is virtually non-existent and staff and patients are traumatised.

The report says while this regional hospital was reborn into a plethora of new beautiful buildings and facilities in March 2017, the Mental Health Unit was left in the decaying old hospital. The unit is not accessible from the new hospital gates and staff, patients and their families have to navigate the tricky side streets of Mdantsane to find the old entrance.

The unit is the only acute psychiatric facility in the Buffalo City Metro area, serving a population of over 755 000, with the next available facilities two hours away in Queenstown and Fort Beaufort.

The report says last year the unit made headlines in Eastern Cape community newspaper Grocott’s Mail as well as eNCA’s current affairs programme Checkpoint, as part of Health-e News’ two-part documentary series, The Writing on the Wall. Now, following a desperate plea from a whistleblower, a former staff member, it revisits the story.

Spotlight report

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