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The Legislative Instrument (L.I) on mental health when passed, will go a long way to help remove mental patients from the streets of the country, Dr Akwasi Osei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority (MHA), has said.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sidelines of the half-year review conference of the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital on Tuesday, he said mental health required massive funding and support from all its collaborative stakeholders.
The review conference offered authorities of the Hospital the opportunity to assess the targets set for the first half against the target for the year to help make the necessary improvements for the achievement of the overall vision of the Hospital.
Dr Osei said the LI which included the establishment of a Mental Health Fund would enable the MHA to source for funding from private entities and also make mental health treatment community based.
He said the Bill also stipulated the establishment of a Mental Health Board to be responsible for mental health matters, and made it mandatory for Government to build more mental health institutions across the country.
This, he said, would create the avenue to provide treatment to mental patients on the streets of the major towns and cities in the country.
Dr Osei, who commended Parliament for the passage of the Mental Health Bill, said there is the need for early passage of the LI to give legal backing to the Authority to function effectively.
On the financial challenges facing the Authority, he said, although by policy, mental health treatment was supposed to be free, the many hospitals have been compelled to charge patients due to their poor financial status.
He said the three psychiatric hospitals, namely the Ankaful, Pantang and Accra together owed their suppliers more than GHȼ10 million, a debt which had accrued over the years.
Though there were enough spaces at their facilities the hospitals were also unable to admit patients due to lack of funds to cater for them.
“The Accra Psychiatric Hospital this week but for the intervention of the Government would have stopped out-patients care. Already they have stopped in-patients care, stopped admissions and are only taking care of those who are already on admission and even ready to decongest further to send home some patients”, he said.
“The Ankaful and Pantang Psychiatric Hospitals are likely to follow suit if the funds are not released to them, already all of them have stopped admitting new patients”, he said.
He expressed optimism that “with the establishment of the mental health fund we are going to clear our debt and have enough money to properly bargain with our suppliers”.
Dr Osei said treatment for mental health was being decentralised from the previous emphasis on specialised psychiatric hospitals and has been currently incorporated into the primary health care system.
Consequently, the Authority had plans to create 20-bed psychiatric wings at the various regional hospitals in addition to the new 50-bed capacity hospital to be built and beds would be provided at the district hospitals to admit mental health cases.
Dr Eugene Dordoye, Director of the Hospital, said the hospital has reconstituted and revamped the quality assurance, drug and therapeutic committees to improve its operational efficiency and quality.
He said some of the challenges facing the hospital include inadequate funding which had reduced patients intake, inadequate technical staff, poor laboratory equipment as well as poor road networks.