Gauteng MEC for Health, Dr. Nomathemba Mokgethi confirmed that the Helen Joseph Hospital has seen an increase in the number of mental healthcare admissions due to a number of reasons. This includes hundreds of patients, seeking care from outside the hospital’s feeder area, flocking to the facility. 

Mokgethi added that an increase in poor socio-economic circumstances worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of illegal substances, and families who refuse to take back their relatives once discharged, have put additional pressure on the hospital.

She was responding to a legislature question and also cited the temporary closure of some sections of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) as another contributing factor. 

“The hospital is also liaising with other psychiatric wards in other facilities to transfer patients whenever there is capacity,” added Mokgethi.

Numbers say it all

Gauteng Health spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, provided statistics to back up the increasing numbers.

“As of January 2022, HJH had treated 876 patients at the Emergency Department compared to 80 in January 2021. At Ward 2 and 3, 1 395 people were treated by January 2022, compared to 620 in 2021. The outpatient department treated 520 patients by January 2022, compared to 244 by January 2021,” he said. 

Kekana said it’s a No 1 priority to ensure that patients are properly cared for as the numbers grow at Helen Joseph Hospital. 

“Various measures have been introduced to ensure the provision of care for the growing number of mental health patients. These include the increase of bed capacity as well as repurposing a temporary structure to house more patients,” said Kekana.

‘Please take family members back’

Mokgethi urged families to welcome their relatives back once discharged.

The MEC also admitted that various health facilities need to be improved. She added that the provincial government is making efforts to ensure that all facilities are up to standard.

“We are making efforts to ensure that psychiatric wards meet the standards and regulations of the Mental Health Care Act. The wellness of mental health patients is our top priority. We are therefore installing 24-hour security cameras to monitor and ensure patient safety,” she said. – Health-e News