MP seeks to boost quality of service in mental hospitals

Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga. [Photo, Courtesy]

Mental health facilities will be required to submit monthly reports to the Ministry of Health if a new bill becomes law.

The Mental Health Amendment Bill 2018, proposes such reports be shared with the respective County Executive Committee Member for Health.

The reports should contain the number of voluntary or involuntary patients the mental health facility has received, those still under treatment and those who have died in the course of treatment.

These regulations, according to nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga who sponsored the bill, are aimed at, among others, rooting out abuse of mentally-ill patients.

“There are some rehabilitation centres used to punish people. It is such rogue behaviour that we want to avoid,” she said.

The bill also stipulates that only a registered psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical officer will be in charge of a mental health facility. It also expands the scope of mental health practitioners to include counsellors.

While this might help plug the huge staffing gap in mental health facilities. The country currently has only 88 psychiatrists. Kasanga, however, revealed that medical practitioners have expressed reservations with her bill.

“We may need to redefine it in terms of who is the most senior of them all, whom we know it is the psychiatrist. It is, however, good to identify other medical practitioners but they cannot all be on the same level,” she said.

Kasanga said the main aim of the bill is to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illnesses and push the Government to revamp the health sub sector which, she noted, has long been neglected.

“Just look at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital. It is the symbol of a broken health system. Doctors have to beg for funds to run the hospital. The mental health sector has simply been left to NGOs to run,” said the senator.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki in January revealed that Mathare needs at least Sh1 billion to be fully functional. The facility handles 800 outpatient cases every week and has 750 inpatients against its capacity of 600.

There is also an acute staff shortage in the facility where one nurse handles up to 147 patients.

Across the country, the senator noted, there are just 14 registered mental health facilities. This explains the low uptake of the National Hospital Insurance Fund rehabilitation package. 

In 2017-18 financial year only 685 patients benefited from the package. For this NHIF spent Sh65 million compared to Sh115 million in 2016-2017 where 1,634 patients benefited.

NHIF Benefits and Contracting Manager, Gilbert Osoro said the package has experienced low utilisation despite being in existence for five years.

We are undertaking a survey to help us improve our content for you. This will only take 1 minute of your time, please give us your feedback by clicking HERE. All responses will be confidential.

County Executive Committee Member for HealthMental Health Amendment Bill 2018Mental health facilities