It has now emerged that one of the issues that triggered the recent demonstration by nurses at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital is a life-threatening attack during which a mental patient stabbed a nurse in the eye.
Nurses at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital on Tuesday, May 27, went on a demonstration and threatened to embark on a strike over what they described as shortage of medicines at the hospital.
The nurses said they had been exposed to the dangers associated with treating very aggressive mental patients without the requisite medicines.
The Chief Psychiatrist at the hospital, Dr Akwasi Osei, told The Mirror in an interview that there had been a couple of such attacks over the years.
He said the injuries sustained by the nurses ranged from scratches to life-threatening ones.
Dr Osei explained that, ‘The nature of mental health patients may make them aggressive towards anyone who is closer to them at any given time, as they cannot control themselves as normal people can’.
He explained that the shortage of medication and personnel, lack of security consciousness on the part of the staff as well as congestion might lead to such attacks.
The hospital mostly does not receive medication on time, he said, and pointed out that sometimes, he and his team had to make internal arrangements to get drugs for patients while they waited for supplies from the government.
According to Dr Osei, some of the members of staff also took a lot of things for granted when attending to patients and added that it was serious because the facility had exceeded its maximum intake with some patients sleeping on the floor.
‘These situations sometimes affect patients negatively and cause them to become aggressive and cause chaos among themselves,’ Dr. Osei stated.
He was, however, quick to stress that, ‘These attacks do not occur as frequently as many people may think’.
Commenting on some of the negative perceptions about mental healthcare, the Chief Psychiatrist said the risk and stigma attached to the mental hospitals scared a lot of medical personnel from offering their services in such institutions.
He further explained that many people did not know much about mental health and so do not consider it normal to care for mental patients and even thought it was contagious.
‘Most families also ignore members who are patients and continue to do so long after they are treated,’ he said.
He also expressed regret at the working conditions of nurses at the psychiatric hospital, which he described as poor compared to those working in the main hospitals.
‘The Accra Psychiatric hospital is responsible for the provision of uniforms for the nurses. They are entitled to two uniforms each year, but we have been able to give them only one. Their salaries are also not good and they sometimes end up spending their own money on the patients’.
‘Members of staff, who are injured in the line of duty, are treated by the hospital for free. Any cost incurred by those who prefer to receive treatment at hospitals of their choice is borne by the psychiatric hospital’ Dr Osei stated.
He said in spite of the challenges, the current situation at the hospital was better compared to some 10 years ago but added that more needed to be done to ensure the safety of both staff and patients.
He was expressed the hope that the mental health law which was passed in 2012 would help to facilitate the goal of mental health care in Ghana.
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