While secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic include mental health issues, the closure of the psychiatric outpatient services and psychiatric ward in Malta’s main public hospital has left an “unforgiving void” for patients stuck in limbo, a local mental health group warned.
“Unfortunately, it seems that mental health was not factored-in at all during the national contingency plan to cater for the effects of COVID-19, and its now having a detrimental effect on mental health service-users, their caregivers and their health professionals,” Mental Health Association Malta remarked.
“Whilst thousands of cases have increased, ironically bed availability [for mental health patients] has drastically decreased, leaving wards in Mount Carmel Hospital to be over-crowded, which also goes against current social distancing health recommendations,” they continued, also noting the severe shortage of staff at MCH at present.
MHA deplored the decision to remove the Psychiatric outpatient section and the Psychiatric Unit at Mater Dei Hospital and accused the government on backtracking on its promises to integrate mental health care within mainstream healthcare.
The group fear that the current state of mental healthcare is burdening patients, carers and their loved ones with risks associated with a disruption to face-to-face psychiatric care, the negative consequences of which could include relapse and suicidal behaviour.
“We ask the Minister for Health to take heed, to hear our desperate cry for help and progress from words stated in the National Mental Health Strategy, now even more than ever,” they continued, calling for more investment for such services and an adaptation of integrated community care.