State takes over administration of Eastern Cape mental health

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The national government has taken over administration of the Eastern Cape’s mental health directorate. A Daily Dispatch report says this was after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on acted on the health ombudsman’s recommendation to appoint an administrator to oversee mental health in the Eastern Cape.

Motsoaledi said Professor Dan Mkize, the new administrator, would establish a new directorate. Motsoaledi said health ombud Malegapuru Makgoba had urged correction of all the systemic failures identified in his report into claims of patient mismanagement at Fort Beaufort’s Tower Psychiatric Hospital in August. Mkize is on a six-month renewable contract.

“The recommendation of the ombudsman is that we put the whole directorate of mental health under administration, so it is now under administration. (Mkize) is a seasoned and competent clinician and manager in the field of mental health services.”

He is quoted in the report as saying that Mkize was the right man to take on the tumultuous task of strengthening mental health systems in the province – his vast academic and clinical experience in the field as a professor of psychiatry and a psychiatrist in both private and public sectors qualified him.

Mkize said he was apprehensive but set on changing mental health services in the province. “I will try my best to do the job I’ve been appointed to, but six months is too little for the work needing to be done.”

Makgoba’s findings urge the administrator to: ensure the provincial health department corrects systemic failures identified in his report; establish a new directorate of mental health and substance abuse as recommended by the national mental health policy framework; and oversee the implementation of policies that will deliver mental health services.

Makgoba said: “The EC (Eastern Cape) department of health has many laudable plans on glossy paper. However, there was very little evidence that these plans were implemented. There was a huge mismatch, or very poor correlation, between what was planned and said with great passion in PowerPoint presentations, and what was implemented in reality.”

Motsoaledi said the recommendations that the ombudsman made were for both Tower Hospital and general psychiatry in the province, and Mkize “will have to oversee them and see that they happen”. He said Mkize would be based full-time in the province from February after winding up his other commitments in KwaZulu-Natal, where he is currently based. Until then, Mkize would be spending three days of each week in the province in December and January. “This means that whoever was handling the directorate of mental health will be reporting directly to him from February. A lot of work has to be done within that period,” Motsoaledi said.

The mental health sector was a ticking time bomb, in South Africa, and globally, he added. “There is an explosion of mental health (issues) to the extent that ordinary mental health patients are found in general wards in hospitals because of this.”
He said while the Eastern Cape had only 13 psychiatrists instead of the required number of 25, “it is doing much better than most provinces. The whole country has a shortage of psychiatrists. There are only 700 in the country. Of that number, 525 are in the private sector. That leaves 175 in the public sector serving 84% of the population.”

Daily Dispatch report (subscription needed)

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