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Sound efforts bearing fruit

Acting Director of the Psychiatric Hospital David Leacock.

by Emmanuel Joseph

The total number of people being admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital is dwindling.

Acting Director of the hospital David Leacock has told Barbados TODAY, that there has been no increase in admissions to the institution over the past two to three years and he has attributed this to its community based interventions, which encourages rehabilitation with families in homes.

“The average numbers in a year are about 1,200, give or take and as I said, we have not seen any large increases there. What we would have seen would have been a marginal increase in first-time admissions. Obviously, other factors, such as we do take persons from the court system. If a person goes to court and the judge believes that they may benefit from an evaluation here, then the person is sent here for evaluation. Those numbers would have increased in the last year or so,” Leacock explained.

The Acting Hospital Director suggested that a situation like that could have impact on first-time admissions. He disclosed, however, that re-admissions have declined.

“So persons who would have had prior contact with us and then been returned to society, we have actually seen fewer of those person, requiring re-admission into hospital,” added Leacock. He also referred to a series of studies including a census within the hospital, which revealed that between 60 and 65 per cent of patients at the Psychiatric can be returned to society and function ably.

“Obviously the factors that can affect their return are social issues, the family; some family members have gotten accustomed to them not being in the home, and are unwilling to have them back in society again, sometimes the support that they need from a societal standpoint, just aren’t there at present; there are a number of organisations, NGOs working to assist in these supports, but sometimes they are not always there to lend the immediate assistance,” insisted the Acting Hospital Head.

However, he said the Ministry of Health, having recognised the situation, has decided to employ community nurses and consultants.

Leacock made it clear that while the mission of the ministry was to reintegrate as many psychiatric patients back into the community, it did not want to go the route of the United States or England, where they went from “very large” mental asylums to putting persons on mass back on the streets without equipping them with functional skills.

“There you find, they shifted from mental hospitals, to the streets, to prison, because they didn’t have the skills to function outside, which we are trying to avoid by saying we just want to sent people from here out. We want to send them, but send them out with the skills needed to actually manage once they return to society,” insisted the trained psychiatric nurse.

Dwindling population

The government official also gave an example of how the population of the institution was dwindling.

“Ten years ago, the hospital would have had about 630 persons in the hospital. With our efforts and the community based standpoint and other internal programmes we would have run, and our half way house system, we would have decreased that now to an average 535 in hospital at present on any given day,” submitted Leacock.

He did point out, though, that there has been a rise in the number of elderly persons being admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital.

Leacock noted that in addition to those who would have grown old after being there for 20 to 30 years, a rising number of elderly people were entering the mental institution, because of Alzheimer’s disease. He said the situation had become a major challenge for the hospital, but that authorities were working with families in trying to educate them on how they could manage.

“Sometimes we would work the family on a gradual basis to get the patient go back home for a day, then for two, until the family feels comfortable again in having the person back in,” he added.

The hosptal director explained that as Barbados continued to develop, and health care improved, lifestyle diseases such as mental health disorders would also follow.

“Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases we are seeing; an increased number of persons being admitted with Alzheimer’s. It’s hard to say if persons are dumping persons, because managing the Alzheimer’s patient is not an easy task. We have persons, who are sometimes themselves are almost 50 or 60 years old, and you have an 80-year old mother or father and you are trying to tell that person, how to do things,” observed the management executive.

He suggested that because of the level of care such patients received at home, it would be better for them to be placed in a hospital.

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