The Pantang Hospital has begun an initiative to rid the streets of Accra of mentally challenged persons.
Dubbed ‘Setting the captive free’, the initiative seeks to treat and restore the dignity of mentally ill persons who roam the streets of Accra.
The Director of the Pantang Hospital, Dr Frank Baning, in an interview with the Daily Graphic on the project, said it was a dent on the country’s image and an eye sore the manner mentally challenged persons roamed the streets.
He said the hospital did not have the financial muscle to take all mentally ill persons off the streets and treat them so the project sought to get corporate bodies and other benevolent individuals to sponsor the treatment of at least one mentally ill person.
“We need people to sponsor the treatment, so if you see the person and you can afford the treatment, just let us know and we will pick the person and start the treatment while you support with the funds,” he said.
The director noted that treatment for the patients was estimated at about GH¢6,000 and would take a minimum of three months and a maximum of one year to see complete changes in them.
He said the project would ensure that the patients were reintegrated into their families and communities after full recovery.
He explained that although few patients might not recover completely after the treatment, the person’s quality of life would be improved.
Dr Baning, therefore, appealed to the corporate sector and benevolent individuals to help the hospital to make the project successful and sustainable.
He said the hospital was also working to ensure that some of the patients were enrolled onto the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, while others got some vocation to enable them to have sustainable livelihoods.
Currently, he said, the treatment of mental health was not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and most people could not afford to pay for the treatment and so they left their families and friends at the mercy of the streets.
He, therefore, called on the government to place mental health under the NHIS to enable people bring in patients for treatment.
“Sometimes some of these people include women and men who are naked and they lie by the road side and people drive past them,” he said.
“It is sad that as a country that prides itself as a religious nation, we see these people lying naked looking all filthy and we drive or walk past them without doing anything about it,” he added.
He lamented how some of them slept, walked in the rain or walked long distances in the scorching sun without help from anyone.
The number of mentally ill persons were increasing on the streets on a daily basis, Dr Baning said, adding that they sometimes caused havoc to other individuals and the environment.
“These people have lost their capacity, competences and their dignities taken away from them,” he said.
Mental health ignored
Dr Baning asserted that in spite of the huge number of persons with mental disorder, mental health continued to be low on the priority list of health planners at all levels, especially the government.
That, he said, was reflective in the quality and quantity of mental health services in the country, adding that poor funding and the lack of adequate medication and personnel were some of the major challenges of mental health delivery.
He said statistics showed a 98 per cent gap in the treatment of mental disorder since the prevalence of mental disorder was estimated at 10 per cent of the total population.
Compounding the challenges, Dr Baning said, was that almost all mental health inpatient beds were located in only the three mental hospitals — the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, Pantang Psychiatric Hospital, both in Accra, and the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in the Central Region.
The ‘Setting the captive free’ pilot project, which started about 18 months ago, has seen some patients treated and reunited with their families.
A mother of three, Dr Baning said, had been reunited with her husband who left her during her illness.
On Thursday, October 9, 2019, a patient who only gave her name as Araba was brought in under the project and started undergoing treatment.
She was picked up from Danfa in the Adentan municipality, had unkempt hair and sores on a finger and on other parts of her body.
The following day, she was cleaned up and her hair shaved.
At the time Daily Graphic visited, she was being prepared for the treatment of the sores on her body among other assesment on her physical body.
Dr Baning, therefore, called for support for the treatment of Araba and added that the treatment would cost about GH¢6,000 for a minimum of three months.