Minister Botha: 51% of Psychiatry Admissions at New Somerset are Substance Abuse Related | Western Cape Government


Minister Botha: 51% of Psychiatry Admissions at New Somerset are Substance Abuse Related

22 August 2011

More than half of the psychiatry admissions at New Somerset Hospital are either directly related to substance abuse or have substance abuse as a contributing factor, the Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said today at the official opening and showcasing of the upgraded Psychiatry Unit of New Somerset Hospital.

With R900 000 renovations completed in July this year, the unit was officially opened a year after reconstruction work commenced.

The location of the old ward was not conducive since it was located close to the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room. With only four beds, the bed capacity was inadequate.

The old ward functioned mainly as an acute in-patient unit. The new unit, featuring ten beds and capacity for 13 patients, will offer a 72-hour observation service. The purpose of this assessment is to ascertain the cause of the patient's symptoms, be it drug-induced psychosis or other causes.

The new unit employs four professional nurses, four enrolled nurses, one mental health nurse and one medical officer, while Valkenberg Hospital offers specialist support and outreach services.

"This substantial improvement in facilities and staffing will lead to our ultimate goal: to improve the patient experience. Patients can now be treated in a manner which respects their human rights and affords them appropriate dignity and respect," said Minister Botha.

In his address, Minister Botha said that substance abuse in the Western Cape has reached disturbing levels. "The hospital's statistics from January to December 2010 reveal that during this period, 755 patients were admitted to the psychiatry ward with an average of 5.5 days length of stay. A third - 29% to be exact - were referred to Level 2 or Level 3 facilities. That means that 70% were discharged for follow-up at primary level."

The primary substances used are "tik" (42%), "dagga" (30%), alcohol (26%) and heroin (1.5%). "On one level it is a tragedy that we have to expand our psychiatry ward into a unit to provide for the patient increase resulting from substance abuse," said Minister Botha.

Along with the opening of the unit today, there is a whole domino effect of benefits for the mental health programmes in this Province and the country. The substantial improvement in facilities and staffing at the hospital will enable the multidisciplinary mental health team to expand service provision and provide for a more comprehensive consultation service to meet the mental health needs of other patients in other wards.

It follows that a more comprehensive, multi-faceted service with linkages to other agencies and departments can now develop and provide for a wider spectrum of mental health needs.

We will now have improved capacity to teach and train medical students, nursing students and professions allied to medicine about mental health conditions. This is in line with the policy to provide more teaching in settings outside of tertiary hospitals and in more integrated environments.

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