A drive to license all mental health facilities housing more than four patients is underway in the Western Cape to ensure that provincial health departments are forced to up their efforts on oversight, reports eNCA.
An estimated 2m people in the province suffer from mental illness, but less than 30,000 are diagnosed or on treatment. The Life Esidimeni tragedy provided a stark reminder that unlicensed facilities that house patients suffering from mental illness can be dangerous and can even lead to death.
The report says the province has four major psychiatric hospitals, seventy regional hospitals and three tertiary hospitals which all provide some level of basic mental healthcare. They are supported by hundreds of clinics and NGO facilities.
Dr Giovanni Perez of the Western Cape Metro District Health Services said, "Many of these non-profit organisations spring up without our knowledge or they exceed the number (of four patients) without our knowledge. The number of unlicensed non-profit organisations two weeks ago was 16, it's now 26, and some are in the process of being licenced, so it is a moving target."
But Khayelitsha councillor Banetsi Mphunga said in the report that these government-funded NGO's are needed in the townships. "Until I have seen any NGO that is funded by the government, that is housing mental health patients, that has finished or exited the programme in the townships, the provincial government is failing. Because that's where these institutions are needed,” Mphunga said.
Mphunga uses his car as a tool to market mental health facilities and as premises to counsel young patients, who he says often require referrals for more serious issues that arise out of trauma counselling.
"Anything that is beyond my scope of practice, it needs to be referred to other institutions or to private practitioners who are psychologists, psychiatrists. That will cost money and most of our people do not even access the service because they know they won't afford it," said Mphunga.
[link url="https://www.enca.com/south-africa/western-cape-increases-oversight-on-mental-health-facilities"]eNCA report[/link]