Health authorities in Ghana could be compelled to shut down the country’s mental health facilities due to lack of funds to run them, Chief Psychiatrist Kwasi Osei has cautioned.
He said this situation might arise if no secure source of funding was set up for mental health care before June when the relationship with the development partner which has been supporting the sector ends.
“We are not doing well financially, we are still hoping that government will release finances for us. What we are really hoping will happen at the end of the day is that we have our own source of financing,” Osei, who is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority (MHA), told Xinhua on Saturday.
Budgetary allocation for the Mental Health headquarters was about 240,000 Ghana cedis (51,465 U.S. dollars) for last year and so the sector depends heavily on a development partner to sustain service delivery.
The country’s parliament has been delaying the passage of the Legislative Instrument (LI) which is meant to guide the implementation of the mental health law.
The draft LI has in it the setting up of the proposed Mental Health Levy as prescribed by the law setting up the MHA but parliament wants the proposed levy taken out of the LI before it is passed.
The legislature argues that the setting up of the fund was the responsibility of the Minister for Finance as representative of the Executive.
“Now, if we pass it without the levy, nobody is bound to give us money and we will be back to square one. So we are still negotiating to have it passed with the LI. Indeed, if we remove the LI, they will pass the bill soon but we will not want to do it that way,” Osei explained.
In the absence of a secured funding source for the sector, British aid organization Department for International Development (DFID) has been supporting mental health care delivery in the country, but this relationship ends next month.
Among the numerous consequences of this situation is the country’s inability to move away from facility treatment to community treatment where every mental patient could visit a clinic, hospital or health post for treatment when necessary.
Besides, Ghana has also not been able to set up the proposed Mental Health Tribunal where people admitted wrongly could seek redress and the inability to set up the visiting committees which will carry out monitoring and evaluation of service delivery.
However, the most immediate and serious situation is the unavailability of medication at the three psychiatric facilities in the country, Pantang and Accra psychiatric hospital in the capital as well as Ankaful at Cape Coast, about 148 km west of the capital.
“We do not have drugs. The ministry has been trying to procure some medicines for us for about one year but we have not had it procured,” the Chief Psychiatrist said.
Under the circumstances, he said patients were given prescriptions to purchase their drugs from private pharmacies, which was expensive, making mental health delivery not exactly adequate.
As a result, patients relapse very often, thereby destroying their confidence in the system.
There is an average daily intake of 40 patients into the facilities across the country.
“June ending, if we do not have funding, we might be forced to close down the MHA because we cannot run it,” cautioned the Chief Psychiatrist
“A time will come,” he warned. “that the psychiatric hospitals cannot admit patients because they will not have money to feed the patients and could even be forced to ask relatives to come for their patients who are already on admission.”
He warned that this would create a national security crisis if violent mental health patients were let loose into the streets. Enditem