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10.10.2005 General News

Chief Psychiatrist bemoans dwindling numbers of Psychiatric Nurses

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Accra, Oct. 10, GNA - Dr Akwasi Osei, Acting Chief Psychiatrist, on Monday said community psychiatric health nurses championing community care at the grassroots were fast becoming a dying species due to the rapid decline in their numbers. He said about 120 out of the 159 community psychiatric nurses would be retiring in the next five years and this would create a vast vacuum in health care delivery.

Dr Osei, who was speaking at the launch of this year's World Mental Week in Accra, described as woefully inadequate, the three Psychiatric Doctors currently at post nationwide, "and yet we do not have any means of replacing them". He said many health personnel were not interested in specialising in mental health because it was not appealing while the specialists were stigmatised. "If we want to turn the tides, then we have to put in place the necessary incentives". The week, which is on the theme: "Mental and Physical Health Across the Life Span" would focus on the relationship between mental and physical health at all stages of life. Activities for the celebration include, health talks, blood donation and national a mental health forum.

Dr Osei said Accra, Pantang and Ankaful Psychiatric Hospitals recorded 89,533 cases in 2004 representing nine per cent increase over the 2003 cases. "These even do not include those seen at the regions by our community psychiatric nurses and other regional institutions." Dr Osei noted that depression, schizophrenia, mania, epilepsy, alcohol and drug abuse were some of the reported mental health problems on the increase leading to psychosis and anxiety. He expressed concern that most of the cases that should have received prompt medical attention were degenerated into serious health problems because patients were delayed at religious healing camps. He used the forum to appeal to alternative healers to refer health cases beyond their competence to the appropriate medical centres.

Dr Gladys Ashitey, a Deputy Minister of Health, said the mental law promulgated in 1972, was being reviewed to address the challenges facing metal health. She said more mental health personnel were being trained to improve on health care delivery. Dr Melville George, World Health Organisation Country Director, expressed the hope that the new mental law would address the stigmatisation of patients and other human rights violations.

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