After missing five deadlines to open an acute psychiatric unit at Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital, Eastern Cape Health finally opened the facility on Thursday of last week, but, says a Daily Maverick report, it lacks a psychiatrist. Eastern Cape Health said no provision has been made for a psychiatrist post at the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital’s new acute psychiatric unit, which took two years to be opened.
Technical adviser to MEC Sindiswa Gomba, Dr Luvuyo Bayeni, admitted that no full-time psychiatrist had been appointed, but said psychiatric nurses taking care of patients in the emergency room would be transferred there. “I am hoping this will happen in the next two weeks,” he is quoted in the report as saying. Bayeni said the department would move patients to the unit before the end of 2019. He said a newly qualified psychiatrist had been appointed as a second doctor at the Dora Nginza Hospital psychiatric unit. One of those doctors would visit the new facility.
The ward has been earmarked for acutely ill patients who need to be hospitalised for 72 hours’ observation. The new unit has 18 beds for men and 18 for women and four seclusion rooms.
Acutely ill psychiatric patients are treated in a temporary ward at Nelson Mandela Bay’s Livingstone Hospital, where the wait for admission to a psychiatric facility can last for up to three weeks. These patients receive a visit from a psychiatrist once a week. Bayeni said this arrangement would continue, but this psychiatrist would also visit the new ward at Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital.
The report says there is a staggering shortage of 1,600 mental health beds in the Eastern Cape. Only three psychiatrists work in Nelson Mandela Bay’s public hospitals, including the newly appointed doctor.
“The new unit, which will have its own dedicated staff, will go a long way in addressing the great need for mental health assistance in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. The opening of the renovated unit also shows how dedicated the department is in addressing the issues that were red-flagged by the health ombudsman in his report on Tower Psychiatric Hospital,” health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said.
Eastern Cape MEC for Health Sindiswa Gomba said Komani Psychiatric Hospital in Queenstown was also being renovated.Daily Maverick report