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Chris Hani Bara Hospital equipped with a new Psychiatric Ward

Entrance to Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital.
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The Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH) in Soweto has been equipped with a new 21 bed Psychiatric Admission Ward. The facility was born through a partnership between the Gauteng Department of Health and the Islamic Relief Fund which invested more than R3. 5 million to refurbish and repurpose an old building into a Psychiatric Administration Ward at the hospital.

Bridging the treatment gap and addressing the existing barriers to accessing mental health services is what lies at the forefront of the newly unveiled mental health ward.

The new ward will now service patients previously deprived of a psychiatric admission and will bring much needed relief to the hospital which sees an influx of people with mental health disorders in Soweto and surrounding areas.

“Now we are going to bring dignity to our patients because from now on once they get assessed at causality we are going to move them here, to this unit where we will finish off our psychiatric assessment. Remember at causality they do the medical assessment. Now here we will do our psychiatric assessment by the nurses, by the doctors and by the social workers,” says Dr Mvuyiso Talatala, Head of Psychiatry at the hospital.

The absence of a psychiatric admission ward placed immense pressure on other wards. As a result, the overcrowding at the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit, which was used by mental healthcare patients waiting for admission, will now be a thing of the past.

“No we are not building this ward to be like the wards that we have that will have a 30 day length of stay…This one at most is 72 hours and this is to support if the patient is in a crisis in the community and acute assessment and stabilization is required the patient can come here; so that we relieve the district and the clinics. And once we have stabilized the patient, the patient can go and follow-up closer to their community,” Talatala adds.

Meanwhile, chronic underfunding continues to widen the gap to accessing mental health services. This has undermined efforts to ensuring people get adequate quality mental health services across the country.

Islamic Relief South Africa’s CEO, Yusuf Mohamed, elaborates.

“Islamic Relief South Africa got involved with this project particularly for the reasons that mental health in South Africa is not receiving the attention it deserves and receiving the importance that it deserves. We know in SA that mental health space, especially treatment in the public sector, is heavily underfunded and the facility that we assisted and partnered with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital to renovate really its such a beautiful facility that we’ve established. It was born out of a need that was identified by Islamic Relief South Africa, particularly in this area that funding was a problem. There was no funding for these facilities and we came forward and partnered with the hospital in order to provide the facilities.”

While increasing access to mental health services is indicative of progress for South Africa, the prioritisation of human rights and dignity of patients, alongside adequate funding is critical in bringing mental health services closer to the people that need it most.

Video: Bara Hospital equipped with new 21-bed Psychiatric Admission Ward:

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