500 persons abandoned at Bellevue - Gov't said more than half mental health patients can go home
More than 150 persons who have been discharged from hospitals have not left those facilities because they either have no where to go or have been abandoned by their caregivers.
In addition, 500 of the 800 persons at the Bellevue Hospital in Kingston are "technically discharged, but have no where to go", Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told THE WEEKEND STAR.
The minister said that the law will be amended to protect the rights of mentally ill persons.
"A big part of the problem is that persons who are admitted to institutions like Bellevue are abandoned by their families," the minister said.
"What is happening at Bellevue is that persons have been there living for 10, 20, 30 years ... we have a couple who are 100 years old and have been there for 30, 40 years. The institution has become almost part of the therapy, where if you separate them from the institution, they may become unstable from just not being there. That is there reality, that is all they know and it is literally frightening for them to be integrated into the wider society," Tufton said.
The minister said the Government's policy is to move away from institutionalisation of patients to community and home care. He said that there are ongoing efforts to discharge patients who require low levels of monitoring, and don't represent a threat to themselves or society.
Meanwhile, Tufton said that the Government intends to collaborate with the Ministry of Local Government to improve capacity at selected infirmaries to receive and care for persons who are to be transferred from hospitals. In addition, he said the Government will be working with Food For The Poor to move those patients living in hospitals to these infirmaries.
The minister said that the upgrade of infirmaries is expected to start early in the new year and he is hoping to have persons transfer to them by end of first quarter next year.
The health ministry, in an interim report of the Mental Health and Homelessness Task Force on an investigation into the status of persons abandoned in hospitals said that 157 persons, ranging from age 1 to 89 years old, are still in the nation's public hospitals despite having been discharged.
The report said that these persons have been abandoned by caregivers or no caregivers could be identified. The persons who remained at hospitals have been maintained by the hospital's administration.
Tufton said that the Government is looking to develop a hospital to takes patients that can't survive in infirmaries due to need for ongoing care.
He said that it is high time that persons stop the practice of abandoning their family members at hospitals.