New Facility A Plus For Mental Health

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Supervisor in charge of the refurbishment projects at the Psychiatric Hospital, Colin Wilkinson, receiving a Certificate of Appreciation from Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, at the launch ceremony. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

The opening of a new Female Admissions Unit at the Psychiatric Hospital has been viewed by Health Minister, Donville Inniss as "a major achievement for the health sector".

Addressing a launch ceremony that also saw the opening of a quarter-way Facility, at that institution, Mr. Inniss said: "It is recognised that women in acute mental distress may be poorly served by existing mental health facilities. The absence of suitable supporting accommodation can be the biggest obstacle to recovery and effective rehabilitation.??

"This Female Admissions Unit is but a continuum of my Ministry’s efforts to close the gap between what is needed and what is currently available, as we seek to reduce the burden of mental disorders and to promote mental health."

The Health Minister also noted that the Unit is designed to provide acute care with a greater emphasis on creating a modern therapeutic environment and is in keeping with international trends that are seeing a reduction in the number of patients on individual wards.????

He added: "Towards this end, this ward has been designed to cater to a maximum of 30 patients and this will serve to reduce the risk of patient abuse; reduce the risk of physical injury to patients or staff; and ensure the maintenance of great health standards. Overall it is intended to provide a comprehensive integrated psychiatric service and is a valuable addition to the range of services available here to patients."

While stating that a similar facility would be developed for men, he pointed out that gender was a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness.??

He noted: "Gender specific risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantages, low income and unremitting responsibility for care of others.

"Gender differences occur particularly in the rates of common mental disorders and depression, anxiety and somatic complaints.?? These disorders in which women predominate constitute a serious public health problem."

Pointing out that the Psychiatric Hospital accommodated 550 patients with a ratio of 2:1 males to females, Mr. Inniss disclosed: "Whilst one may argue that this statistic shows the predominance of mental illness among men as opposed to women, one must realise that in a society where female-headed households dominate, the absence of this gender can sometimes have a more profound effect on the family."

The facility, which operates with a staff of over 500 and an annual budget of $32 million, was also praised by the Health Minister, who noted that management and staff had done great work with "limited resources".??

Additionally, he explained that in the 1996/1997 era there was an estimated cost of $2 million to repair each building. ??Minister Inniss said: "…Overtime, staff and small contractors had been able to undertake most of the work at a better cost and this female admissions facility is another example of the skills and commitment of the staff here, especially the technical department. At a cost of approximately $205,000, you were able to deliver on this project."

Those gathered also heard that more physical works would be done to the Psychiatric Hospital and that in respect of a new kitchen-design, work was in its final stages and it would be started later this year.

With respect to the quarter-way house, the Health Minister explained that it was conceptualised as a needed transition for some of the Hospital’s long-stay patients in their process of reintegration into the wider community. "It is intended to provide transitional living services to clients recovering from addictive and psychiatric illnesses. This quarter-way house programme is a highly structured living arrangement which provides room and board; individual and group counselling; special educational and therapeutic groups on germane topics such as spirituality, sexuality and anger assertiveness and participation in weekly AA meetings for substance abusers and part and full time employment," he underlined.

According to the Mr. Inniss it is also hoped that the programme would ease the transition for those persons who are challenged by the leap from hospitalisation to reintegration into mainstream society. "These facilities form part of the Hospital’s redevelopment in recognition of the fact that there is a need to strengthen the continuum of care for persons, especially those with complex diagnoses," he said.

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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