Drug abuse related admissions strain mental hospitals

Bulawayo (New Ziana) -ZIMBABWE’s largest psychiatric referral hospital, Ingutsheni, is struggling to cope with the swelling number of patients with mostly drug and substance abuse problems due to the mass exodus of qualified medical personnel for greener pastures.

Hospital principal nursing officer Egnes Kabwemba said this during an interview with New Ziana on the sidelines of a ceremony to handover blankets and food stuffs by the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe (IPMZ) on Thursday.

IPMZ has over the years been working and assisting mental health institutions across the country including Parirenyatwa, Ngomahuru and Harare Hospitals through refurbishing of facilities.

Kabwemba said recently the mental health institution had been losing six to eight qualified personnel every month who were joining the great trek to neighbouring countries and beyond in search of better salaries and working conditions.

“Of late, we have been losing six to eight qualified staff per month. However, the number has dropped to one per month. In the month of August, we had one resignation. We are facing replacement challenges. We need experienced staff to train and supervise students studying mental health nursing,” she said.

She said the situation had been worsened by a surge in cases of drug and substance abuse in the city and the country as a whole.

“We are facing exodus of qualified personnel and a surge in cases of drug and substance abuse. This has resulted in a surge in admissions in our wards.

“We are receiving 2 500 outpatients per month. Yesterday (Wednesday), we admitted a 16-year-old who was abusing drugs,” she said.

Kabwemba said 60 percent of male patients admitted at the centre was as a result of drug and substance abuse by youths.

“The ages of people abusing drugs range between 16 to 40 years. It’s a great challenge to the institution and country at large. Women are also abusing drugs and if th trend we are witnessing continues, then we may have more females being admitted in our wards.

“Currently we have two female patients admitted due to drug abuse. We have six male patients on suicidal observation due to drug and substance abuse.”

At the moment the 700-bed mental health centre had 678 patients and it was facing challenges meeting their needs, she said.

“Our staff-patient ratio is not balanced due to brain drain. We need food and medication, and another challenge we are facing is relatives are not visiting or looking after patients,” she said.

Speaking after handing over the goods, IPMZ executive director Luckson Mupandawana said their main focus was mental health as they felt that the area was not being given much attention.

“We deal with a variety of issues, but our focus is mental health,” he said.

New Ziana

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