South African mental breakdown: DA to do oversight at psychiatric facilities

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
21 Jul 2022 in News

Please find an attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

Today, the DA kicked off our series of oversight inspections to psychiatric facilities across the country with visits to Karl Bremer Hospital and Stikland Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Town.

Recent data from a variety of sources show South Africans are experiencing a mental health crisis. The second Annual Mental State of the World Report from Sapien Labs found that South Africa had the lowest score on the mental health well-being scale, with 36% of people who partook in the study being distressed or struggling in 2020.

A parliamentary question from the DA underscores this with revelations that 6.5 million South Africans need professional mental health intervention, of which almost 1.3 million “need care for severe psychiatric conditions”.

However, only 44 of South Africa’s 357 hospitals have psychiatric units, with some provinces like Mpumalanga having no beds in standalone psychiatric facilities and the Northern Cape having zero designated mental health inpatient units.

The country also has a shortage of specialised psychiatric nurses. A DA parliamentary question revealed although South Africa has a specialised training program for nurses in Mental Health Nursing, only two universities have been accredited so far, neither of which is offering the program at the moment. This while a total of 4 965 specialist nurses qualified in 2021 with only 1 395 employed between April 2020 and March 2022. While the Department of Health had a number of explanations for the low employment figures, it is South Africans with mental health issues that bear the consequences.

The DA’s oversight will consist of various checks and balances to ensure mental health care facilities and units:

  • Prioritise very sick patients;
  • Have access to necessary medical and mental health practitioners, as well as essential equipment, medicines and supplies;
  • That proper guidelines and protocols are in place;
  • That the facilities are hygienic;
  • That the facilities are safe and secure; and
  • That they have dedicated budgets to ensure continuous, quality care.

The DA takes South Africa’s mental health crisis very seriously. The United Nations (UN) has said that poor mental health “impedes the individual’s capacity to work productively, realize their potential and make a contribution to their community.” With our country’s growing unemployment lines and more poor and vulnerable people than ever dependent on social grants for survival, the Department of Health must take the necessary steps to ensure that all who seek help are treated.