Earlier this year, the GDOH reported that Helen Joseph Hospital has seen a tenfold increase in the number of mental healthcare patients showing up at the Johannesburg facility over the past year.
Whilst we commend the heroic efforts of the staff, nursing, and medical and allied health disciplines from Helen Joseph Hospital who have worked tirelessly to ensure that psychiatric patients receive the best care possible, we believe that the current conditions at the hospital, particularly in the emergency department, are intolerable, and are drastically compromising patient care and safety.
This is why we have put together an open letter, calling for a clear, coordinated, and integrated approach that maximises efficient use of resources. This includes:
1) The inclusion of extra psychiatric beds in the general hospitals that must be developed with the appropriate infrastructure and staffing. This would require that the Charlotte Maxeke mental health care unit (doctors and nurses) and infrastructure (beds, equipment, etc.) be split between the general hospitals with available space. It is critical that this process is closely coordinated and managed to ensure the adequate delivery of services and accountability.
2) Allocating appropriate budget and resources. The provision of resources and the operational budget that was allocated to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital for the provision of psychiatric services should follow the development of additional beds and human resources needed to help Helen Joseph Hospital manage the increased patient volume and the burnout of frontline workers.
3) Adequate investment and up-scaling of community-based mental healthcare in Gauteng. Investing more community-based mental health support for the province can help reach more people and reach them earlier before they get so sick and require long-term hospitalisations.
Stand with us and sign this urgent open letter to Gauteng Health MEC, Nomathemba Mokgethi, calling on her to protect the welfare of mental health care users at Helen Joseph Hospital, as well as mental health care users across the province.
Michel’le Donnelly, Project Leader [Advocacy & Awareness], for the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH)
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