Sorry state of mental hospital shocks MPs

Chairperson of a Parliamentary Committee on Health Rachael Nyamae (left) flanked by Mathari Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr. Julius Ogeto during a visit in the hospital. PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD)

Nairobi, Kenya: A female nurse in charge of 146 mentally ill male patients, some of them hardcore criminals, in a maximum security ward. Another nurse, also female, takes care of 53 mentally ill patients, who at times assault the staff.

That’s the situation at Mathari hospital.

MPs came face-to-face with this sad state of affairs at the facility, Kenya’s largest national mental health referral hospital.

Members of the Parliamentary Health Committee who were on a fact-finding mission at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital were shocked by the acute shortage of staff and overstretched facilities.

The committee, led by Rachel Nyamai, toured the hospital’s various wards on Tuesday.

Besides the shortage of nurses, the hospital’s Medical Superintendent Julius Ogato told the committee that the institution does not have even one clinical psychologist.

The facility also has a shortage of specialist psychiatrists, medical social workers, pharmacists, occupational therapists, water and medicines.

“The acute shortage of staff has hampered efficient and effective service delivery. The available staff who do not meet international ratios are overwhelmed by the work,” said Dr Ogato, who was accompanied by Catherine Mutisya, a representative of the Director of Medical Services.

Capital Offenders

Ogato complained that the large number of capital offenders the hospital is forced to admit as they await mandatory medical assessments has further strained the facilities and budgetary allocation.

“There is an erratic supply of water at the institution and we have a water debt of Sh40 million. We have an inadequate supply of new generation psychotropic drugs and other medical commodities, which require over Sh20 million,” he told the MPs.

Robert Pukose, the Vice chairman of the committee wondered why the facility falls under the Ministry of Health and yet it is one of the country’s referral hospital and should therefore receive its budgetary allocation from the national government.

“The hospital is still under a department in the Ministry of Health... and it still needs support from the parent ministry for some time before it can stand on its feet,” explained Dr Mutisya.

The MPs promised to push for more funding for the hospital.