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30.11.2004 General News

Psychiatric Patients Abandoned

By Ghanaian Times
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Nov 30, (Ghanaian Times) -- Over one-third of the 1,200 mental patients on admission at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital have been there for over 30 years.

The Deputy Director of Nursing, Ethel Lartey said some of the inmates were admitted to the hospital as far back as 1974.

“The hospital authorities have had difficulties tracking the relations of these patients, because most of the addresses are wrong”, she stated.

Although most of them have been treated of their illness, in some cases the patients' relatives have refused to visit them or to accept them back into their homes.

Mrs. Lartey said the Department of Social Welfare had made several unsuccessful attempts to assist the hospital in tracing patients' relatives.

She noted that because of stigmatization associated with mental illness, even the few patients who could have been discharged to live with their relatives and friends or in the community were reluctant to leave the hospital after treatment.

Mrs. Lartey recalled that although past government's had made plans to resettle former mental patients, none of these plans had been successful, with the result that the patients continued to be a burden on the hospital budget.

“The government has been very supportive of the Psychiatric Hospital in its current circumstances by providing funding for the drugs needed to treat patients,” she said.

She said a lot more was needed to be done, since the hospital relied increasingly on charitable and benevolent organizations to meet the needs of the hospital.

Recounting some of the problem facing the hospital, the Deputy Director of Nursing said that the current nurse patient ratio was 1:130, which compared to the recommended ratio for a psychiatric hospital of 1:4 was hopelessly inadequate.

She attributed the constant resignation of nurses from the Psychiatric Hospital to the unbearable pressures of work and warned that if nothing were done about their situation the exodus would continue.

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