TAIF – The Health Ministry is seriously considering plans to privatize all mental health hospitals and build independent shelter homes for rehabilitating patients left to wander in the streets. It is also planning to take concrete steps to improve and expand mental health services across the country.
The privatization plan was disclosed by a senior official while speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette on the sidelines of a conference in Taif opened by Acting Governor Saad Al-Maimouni and attended by Deputy Health Minister for Planning and Transformation Dr. Khaled Al-Shibani.
The three-day conference organized by Taif Mental Health Hospital reviewed mental health services in the Kingdom and discussed ways to upgrade facilities required to treat chronic and mental diseases. A large number of psychiatrists and mental health experts took part in the event.
Dr. Yousuf Abdul Ghani, director general of mental health, said the ministry’s futuristic vision aims for total privatization of mental health hospitals.
“The ministry issued two orders in April-May to open mental health wings at public and private hospitals having more than 100 beds and mental health clinics at hospitals having less than 100 beds,” Abdul Ghani said while speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
These orders cover hospitals of the Defense Ministry, National Guard and Security Forces in addition to the general hospitals, he said, adding that the move comes as part of the national transformation program whose fruits are likely to be enjoyed by the public in 2020.
“We have got instructions that security agencies should not interfere in hospitalization of mental patients, except in special cases determined by the chief administrative officer,” he explained.
He said the new move would remove the misconception that mentally-ill people must be treated at specialized hospitals. “This is a wrong perception. Mental health services provided by all hospitals are important to treat mentally-ill individuals,” he added.
Dr. Abdul Hameed Al-Habeeb, secretary of the National Committee for Mental Health, said economic, social and technological changes have contributed to creating mental health problems among Saudis in recent years.
“We hope the conference would bring qualitative changes in mental health services. In the past the focus was on hospital treatment and in the future the focus would be on social participation and use of modern technology,” he said.
Asked whether there is any increase in psychiatric cases compared to previous years, he said: “The ministry is conducting a survey with the support of other government departments and its result will be published shortly. The survey result will contribute to preparing future treatment plans.”
Al-Habeeb said there is a plan to establish a national charitable association for social care to support hospitals that provide treatment to mental patients. It will have offices in all regions.
Speaking about families who refuse to receive their mental patients, he said: “We’ll force such families to receive their patients and we’ll conduct regular home visits to follow up the condition of such patients.”
With regard to difficult cases including those who wander in streets, he said: “We’ll provide them shelter outside hospitals and encourage the private sector to invest in this project.”
Dr. Abdul Ghani said at least 1,000 hospital beds have been occupied as a result of families’ refusal to accept recovered patients. “Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah is personally concerned with the issue of the long waiting list of mental patients who do not find hospital beds for treatment.”
Okaz/Saudi Gazette toured Taif Mental Health Hospital located on Shihar Street. The hospital buildings are separated by a busy road. The nearby chest hospital has been closed.
There are 20 mental health hospitals across the Kingdom with a total of 4,000 beds. Expansion projects are being implemented to increase their capacity to 6,000 beds. They have 60 outpatient clinics to receive patients and are manned by 847 doctors, 3,000 nurses, 1,248 social workers and 642 psychologists.
In addition to mental hospitals there are specialized clinics at general hospitals to provide treatment to mentally ill patients.
The new mental hospitals and de-addiction centers planned by the ministry will have 100 to 500 beds. Some of them have already been completed and started operations in areas such as Qurayyat, Al-Jouf, Madinah, Al-Ahsa and the Northern Border Province.
“Hospitals in Jazan, Dammam and Qassim are being furnished and provided with necessary medical equipment and facilities while five hospitals in Najran, Hail, Tabuk, Jeddah and Asir are still under construction,” a ministry official told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
The ministry has allocated funds to establish a 500-bed hospital in Riyadh, another 500-bed hospital in Makkah and a 200-bed hospital in Baha, he added.
Source : Saudi Gazette