MUTARE – The minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr David Parirenyatwa and the special advisor to the President, Timothy Stamps have condemned Sakubva District Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit following their tour of the place in a belated World Mental Health Day last Friday.
Parirenyatwa was taken on tour of the Psychiatric Unit as a prelude to the national World Mental Health Day belated commemorations running under the theme “Mental Health and Older Adults.”
Parirenyatwa said the tour was meant “to show us that the province doesn’t have a psychiatric hospital” adding that he and Stamps had arrived at a quick decision to condemn it after the tour of the rundown unit.
“Tawirirana (we agree) that this building is condemned… during the tour Dr Stamps just shook his head and said there is nothing here,” he said.
The psychiatric unit is currently housed in a dilapidated building, with a dingy holding cell that the minister referred to as a prison during the tour.
“This is a prison,” Parirenyatwa said on entry into the cell.
The facility is on lease from Mutare City Council and has only been working without patients and referring any clients who needed admission to Harare Central Hospital.
During an extended tour of the maternity section of the hospital which was in apt order, Stamps was still wondering what had hit him saying he was depressed by what he had seen.
“There was a lot of money that was provided for psychiatric care after the war,” Stamps added.
“This is a non-starter,” Parirenyatwa said after the tour with Stamps adding that “this should be a museum of what the Rhodesians did to us.”
“We are going to look again and relocate to where they will be recreational facilities,” Parirenyatwa said.
The Health minister called for more resources from treasury towards his ministry.
“Let’s all sing the same tune that we need more money for the health sector,” he said.
Sakubva District Health Services administrator, Gracious Matongo and the hospital’s Grade 3 Matron, Sheila Chimbetete took the minister’s decision positively saying it would help get government attention.
“There are no partners supporting mental health delivery system,” Matongo said.
Chimbetete also said the psychiatric unit was also routinely being crippled by “essential anti-psychotic drug shortages.”
During his key address, the Health minister also acknowledged critical shortages of antipsychotic and cancer medications an area he pledged to improve.
“I don’t see how we can continue to neglect these two areas, psychiatric and cancer drugs. We know they are expensive but its government’s responsibility,” the minister said.
Parirenyatwa urged younger generations to take greater care of their aging parents and not to “dump” them in old people’s homes especially when they have mental health problems.
“Haikona kuti ndafinhikana saka ndakumuendesa kuold people’s home (Let us not say l’m fed up so l’m taking them to an old people’s home). Let’s look after our old parents especially if they have a mental disorder… if they have a disorder try to get them treated early,” the minister said.
Parirenyatwa said “global statistics indicate that about 20 percent of adults aged 55 years and above suffer from a mental disorder.”
World Health Organisation Disease Prevention and Control Officer, Lincoln Charimari in an address he read on behalf of WHO Zimbabwe Representative David Okello noted that “In the African Region, the population of elderly people was estimated at 43 million in 2010 and it is projected to reach 67 million by 2025 and 163 million by 2050.”
“Due to the significant gain in life expectancy, a growing number of people are now elderly and face an increased risk of chronic diseases including mental health conditions and disabilities. Dementia, depression and anxiety are some of the mental health problems that older adults face and can often cause severe dependency,” Okello said.
Parirenyatwa also made donations to Zororo Old People’s Home, four primary schools and nine elderly persons present.