Overcrowding blamed for assaults by Thembisa Hospital psychiatric patients

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Eight staff members have been assaulted by psychiatric patients at Tembisa Hospital since January last year‚ and the death of one psychiatric patient at the hospital is being investigated by police. The Times reports that this was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng Legislature by Democratic Alliance (DA) MPL Jack Bloom.

According to Ramokgopa‚ there is one 30-bed psychiatric ward for 72-hour observation as required by law‚ of which 20 beds are for males and 10 beds for females. But psychiatric patients are often placed in ordinary wards because the male section “almost always runs at 100% capacity/bed occupancy”.

Between March 2017 and February this year‚ psychiatric patients spent 948 days in ordinary wards. One of the reasons for this is the unavailability of beds in Weskoppies Hospital‚ which leads to blockage of beds in the Tembisa psychiatric ward‚ so new admissions end up in medical wards‚ said Bloom.

Ramokgopa is quoted in the report as saying that there were no complaints or incidents reported with regards to psychiatric patients being admitted to ordinary wards. There were‚ however‚ eight complaints and incidents of staff members being assaulted by psychiatric patients that were recorded and addressed by the occupational health and safety manager from January 2017 to date.

On 22 February this year a patient died in the psychiatric ward. According to the preliminary security report after viewing video footage: “Two patients started fighting each other at about 20h28. The security officer and nurse responded promptly. No foreign object was used.” A case has been opened with the police and the autopsy report is awaited.

Ramakgopa said that the hospital has “dedicated one cubicle in one of the medical wards for the admission of psychiatric patients. There is a security office assigned to guard that cubicle. When the psychiatric ward is full and there is need to admit a high risk or violent mental health patient‚ a swap of patients takes place to ensure that the high risk or violent patient is admitted to the psychiatric ward and not the medical wards.”

According to the report, in response‚ Bloom said he was concerned about the violent incidents and the shortage of beds for psychiatric patients at this hospital. “Security needs to be tightened and bed capacity expanded to provide a safe and proper service for psychiatric patients.”

The Times report

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