Gradually and then suddenly, the country's psychiatric hospitals have run out of cash.
The Acting Chief Psychiatrist of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Akwasi Osei has told Public Agenda that the hospital has only a meager amount of money to feed the inmates for the next three days, after which the hospital would be relying on the benevolence of its suppliers.
He said the other psychiatric hospitals- Pantang and Ankaful had already exhausted their funds and are now virtually living on the mercy of contractors and suppliers who provide their food on credit.
Dr. Osei said the hospital's authorities are currently negotiating with some of their suppliers and contractors to supply them food on credit after the next three days, adding "we can not continue living on the benevolence of contractors and suppliers for our needs."
"Somebody agrees to supply food on credit, when you get money you pay, no body gives free lunch so, if they agree to supply the food on credit, what it means is that they are going to increase the price, probably double the price, while the same quantity of food could have been bought cheaply at the market price."
Dr. Osei noted that, even though the psychiatric hospital is not the only hospital that is starved of funds, the situation at the psychiatric hospitals is quite alarming.
This he said is due to the fact that health services at the psychiatric hospitals are free. "The services we provide do not generate income for us, unlike the general hospitals which generate income through their cash and carry system. Our services are free, patients do not pay and this leaves us financially handicapped", he pointed out.
"Government is making the efforts, but it is nowhere near what we need to run the psychiatric hospitals properly." Dr. Osei described the state of mental health delivery in the country as one on the verge of collapsing.
According to him the country's economic development would be largely affected if urgent structures are not put in place to educate the public on the importance of mental health. This, he said should be done in line with the motto of the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, which is, 'Generating Wealth for the Country Through Health.
"If you are not healthy, you cannot generate wealth, very often people do not see health as wealth, people see people counting money as generating wealth, we want to change this perception", he added.
Touching on the quality of services being rendered at the psychiatric hospitals, he disclosed that instead of the 600 nurses needed, the hospital currently has only 200 nurses with one nurse performing the duty of three nurses.
He said due to this problem work at the hospital is being highly compromised, because an illness that should have taken about two weeks to cure takes more than three months.
He stated that last year among the three psychiatric hospitals, 89,533 cases both old and new were reported representing 9% increase over the 2003 numbers. These he said do not include those seen at the regions by community psychiatric nurses and other regional institutions.
In spite of the increasing numbers of the patients the number of mental health workers keeps dropping by the day.
"It has been difficult to convince young doctors to accept posting to psychiatric hospitals to be trained as psychiatrists. If we want to change the trend, then we have to put in place the necessary incentives", he advised.
Dr. Osei however proposed that in the next allocation of vehicles by the government, three cars should be set aside for the three psychiatric hospitals to be delivered to any doctors who accept postings to the hospitals.
"We urge the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Services to provide incentive packages, like free accommodation, risk allowance and free utilities, instead of the business as usual approach.