THE Chief Psychiatrist of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Akwasi Osei, has predicted a possible collapse of the mental health system within the next three years if steps are not taken to overhaul it.
He argued that the current system of centralised or institutional mental health care as enshrined in the National Redemption Council Decree 30, the law governing mental health care delivery in the country, was not sustainable.
Speaking at a day’s media workshop on the Mental Health Bill (MHB) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRD) in Accra, yesterday, Dr Osei said inadequate psychiatrists and mental health personnel, shortage of drugs and congestions at the psychiatric hospitals and inadequate finance posed a threat to the survival of the mental health service.
He therefore, called for the early passage of the MHB, saying “the law calls for preventive mental health care delivery instead of a curative one, and as well provides a modern health care delivery for mental health patients”.
Dr Osei stated, among other things, that the MHB emphasized community mental health care service and was rooted in human rights, adding that the new law called for mental health units in all the regional and district hospitals.
He added that the new law would also mandate Ghana to comply with all the international treaties and conventions on human rights and mental health care and ensure that the country adopted international best practices in mental health care.
He further said the new law would review tribunal to review illegal or unwanted admission at the psychiatric hospitals, saying that currently there were over 100 treated patients at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital who should be at home but were still there, some of these people, he said, had been at the hospital for 30 years.
Dr Osei said the World Health Organization (WHO) had described the MHB as one of the best mental bill the world, adding that the WHO had said any mental health law which was above 10 years old was outmoded.
Inadequate psychiatrists and mental health personnel, shortage of drugs and congestions at the psychiatric hospitals and inadequate finance among other challenges further pose a threat to the survival of the mental health service, decreased productivity and more mentally ill patients on the street as some of the challenges the country would face if the government failed to pass the MHB into law.
“We are all at risk and the government has to expedite action on the passage of the MHB,” Dr Osei stressed.
Giving an overview of the mental health situation in the country, Dr Osei said it was estimated that about 2.4 million Ghanaians had some form of mental disorder out of which 400,000 have severe forms of disorders.
He said out of the figure only 2 per cent of people had adequate healthcare.
Mr Francis, Adjetey Sowah, Executive Director of Disabled Christian Fellowship International, who spoke on the UNRCD ,called on the government to ratify the convention.
The UNRCD was adopted by the United Nations in 2006 and signed by Ghana in March 2008.
Mr Sowah lamented that people with disabilities suffer had discrimination and were deprived of education and social amenities.
He said the ratification of the convention would make it obligatory for the government to address the challenges facing PWDs and also help them to earn some recognition in society.
Mr Dan Taylor, Executive Secretary of the MindFreedom Ghana said the workshop was to build the capacity of journalists on the UNRCD and the MHB and also to create awareness on them.