Malta’s Mental Health Commissioner has called on authorities to address the “less than desirable” practices at Mount Carmel that “fall short of respecting patients rights and dignity”, following a shocking first-hand account that went viral this week.
“This was regrettably similar to many other patients’ views that reach my office through direct interviews, emails, phone calls, letters and social media,” the commissioner, Dr. John Cachia, warned.
“I am glad that finally patients are finding the courage and speaking up too. Their first-hand experience is in line and reflects the findings that my Office has been reporting for the past six years.”
The commissioner admitted that COVID-19 complicated the pace in which reforms can be implemented, but stressed that a number of changes to the mental health sector have been put on pause for far too long.
“Although I have repeatedly asked Mount Carmel Hospital authorities to upgrade their protocols in matters such as possession of communication devices and searches for safeguarding patient safety, I am still waiting to receive these updated protocols,” the commissioner said.
Despite the criticism, he acknowledges that professionals give their utmost and lengths of stay in hospital are considerably shorter.
Nonetheless, he urged Health Authorities to act imminently.
“Patients with mental health problems deserve to receive the care they require in the best and most dignified way. A number of reforms in the mental health sector have been put on a pause for far too long.”
One in four people will suffer from a mental health disorder in their lifetime, and the pandemic has only exacerbated people’s need for such treatment.
A 10-year Mental Health Strategy sees €6 million allocated to upgrade mental health services on the island.
It details a shift from in-patient services at Mount Carmel Hospital to in-patient and outpatient services at Mater Dei and into the community. This year, a four-room psychiatry unit opened at the Qormi Health Centre.
However, doctors have warned that a lack of sound communication of the 10-year-plan, transparency with stakeholders and severe under-resourcing is impeding their ability to work.
Meanwhile, Malta’s Mental Health Alliance flagged the situation as dire and warned that many patients were uninformed of the closure of mental health services at the general hospital.
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