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General News of Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Source: myjoyonline.com

Health Ministry denies starving psychiatric hospital of essential drugs

Authorities at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital seem to be on a collision course with the Health Ministry after the latter rejected claims that they have reneged on their duty to resource the hospital with essential drugs.

Chief Psychiatrist and Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Akwasi Osei blamed the lack of essential drugs to calm down aggressive patients as part of reasons for Thursday’s killing of an inmate at the facility.

An inmate Akua Pokua, who was admitted only about a week ago at the hospital allegedly, strangled another inmate Charlotte Nyarko with a piece of cloth until she died last Thursday. Another inmate sustained severe head injuries.

He told Joy News even though the facility accepts responsibility, albeit partly, for the death of the inmate, government inaction is equally to blame for the incident.

“There are various drugs so base on your level of aggressive you would be given a particular drug. There are some drugs that they give to tranquilise patients - there are some drugs that are meant to be given to patients so as to calm them down very quickly - at that time we did not have those drugs available.”

Nevertheless, he conceded, “Where you cannot use chemical restraint then you are forced to use mechanical restraint like secluding them in special rooms.”

But Director of Procurement and Supply of drugs at the ministry, Samuel Boateng, told Joy News the hospital has a year-long supply.

He said the ministry has supplied them with all the drugs they requested for, and within a period of one year they have not had any occasion of shortages.

“As far as the Ministry of Health is concerned, we do not have any shortages of drugs at the psychiatric hospital. We have not less than a year supply that will be able to supply psychiatric hospitals with adequate requirements of their medication.”

He said his outfit has even in stock, new medicines that are “much more effective and efficient” than the old drugs.

He said the chief pharmacist at the hospital has also confirmed to him that there is no shortage of drugs there.

Meanwhile, Dr Akwasi Osei, as a matter of urgency, wants government to implement the mental health law which guarantees decentralized mental healthcare.

He lamented that a ward that is meant to take 50 people is forced to accommodate 100, with only two nurses instead of 25, as well as lack of medication to calm patients down.

“Then what exactly is the point in scapegoating and say somebody is at fault. Yes there may be some amount of negligence, but the big picture which I expect everybody to see is the fact that as society we have neglected our responsibility”.

According to criminologist Prof. Ken Attafuah, it is within the right of the families of the deceased to take the responsibility to sue for negligence, and hopefully, that will get the state on it toes.

He described the incident at the hospital as a “huge tragedy”.

“It is a failure of the generality of the Ghanaian public, we as a community has consistently failed the weakest segment of our society, those with mental challenges, who we confine usually for our safety rather than for their well-being... A colossal shame, a crying shame on conscience of people in this country, that we do not care enough, we do not provide enough, and we do not at the end of the day care deep enough”.

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