THE Life Esidimeni tragedy put the spotlight on psychiatric wards and it has emerged that many are in a shocking state.
According to the DA’s health spokesman in Gauteng Jack Bloom, there is a shortage of 2 700 beds for psychiatric patients in the province.
Speaking at the Gauteng Legislature yesterday, Bloom said last year public hospitals admitted 18 387 psychiatric patients but 4 425 of them had to be placed in ordinary wards.
Bloom said over the years, a number of psychiatric patients have died because they were placed in normal wards with staff who were not trained to deal with them.
He said in a recent incident, one patient raped another because there was no proper security.
He said only four of the over 24 public hospitals in the province were in a proper condition: Chris Hani Baragwanath, Steve Biko, Kalafong and Bertha Gxowa hospitals.
Bloom said problems at public hospitals included the lack of psychiatric wards, a shortage of beds, poor maintenance, incompetent contractors and a lack of security measures.
“There is often not enough space on the first floor of hospitals and psychiatric patients are sent to other floors, where they could jump out of windows.
“Patients admitted for 72-hour treatment and observation are often not placed in dedicated psychiatric wards.”
Bloom said the health department should budget better as R600 million was returned to the Treasury in the last financial year.
“This money should have been used to improve facilities but the department didn’t spend the money.”
Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa responded with a 20-page report which indicated that recommendations had been made for improved maintenance and extra beds.