Wednesday, November 30

Mentally Imbalance people are Discriminated against and stigmatized in Gambian Hospitals, says Bojang

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By Mustapha Jarju

A senior Psychiatric health worker and a Matron at Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital in Salaji has disclosed that persons with mental health problems are discriminated against and stigmatized in the Gambian hospitals.

Meanwhile, he said mental health is not treated like any other physical illness.

Mr Omar Bojang speaking to The Voice Newspaper at his office in Tanka Tanka Hospital explained that health workers are segregating and discriminating against mentally ill patients, “the public expectation could be the worst and this is what is happening and people need to be aware of it.”

He added that “even among ourselves (the health Workers) the stigma and discrimination in the health sector are still there because when you go to certain areas like Basse and Bansang, physically ill patients or maternity cases can be referred from those hospitals with the ambulances available in those hospitals when there are complications. But when they are referring psychiatric (mentally ill) patients to the Urban Hospitals, they are not permitted to be given an ambulance”

Bojang said they have a focal person in the Central River Region and Upper River Region who are going through these difficulties even with the regional health team in those areas.

“Ambulances are there for a referral so why prefer one type of a patient to carry with an ambulance and deny referral for the mentally ill patients through the ambulance available in hospitals?” he asked.

However, he said they are making efforts to make sure that every regional hospital has a ward that can accommodate at least six (6) psychiatric patients so that they can admit acute cases of mental illnesses that can take one to two weeks of observation treatment before returning them to their communities.

In an interview via a telephone call yesterday, Dr. Mustapha Bitayye said the hospitals have health workers who are in charge of the affairs of mentally ill patients. “Acute mentally ill patients are transferred to the designated hospitals for consideration,” he stressed.

Dr. Bitayye denied the allegation that mentally ill patients are not given priority to be given an Ambulance for referral when there are complications.

He said there is no discrimination in the Gambia health sector, whatever kind of patients receive at hospitals, they are given equal care, being it a hypertension patient, or whatever kind of sickness the person is suffering from, he said.

He reiterated that this is information made by the people to lambast the health sector, “the doctors are not discriminating against patients,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, speaking on the challenges of theTanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital, Matron Omar Bojang said it is the only psychiatric hospital in the Gambia but the challenges it faces are high.

He revealed that “sometimes we go without medicine, we have challenges with regards to the adequate food, sanitary supply, detergent for cleaning and even mobility challenges,” he stressed.

He explained how they take care of the patients in terms of clothing, feeding, and admission of patients into the hospitals.

On a conducted tour of the hospital, it was noted that the hospital has joined wards for chronic and acute cases, while males and females mingle, sit and chat together during the day with the nurses and security officers.

Among the facilities in this hospital include a TV room, a carpentry, and a painting workshop for skills learning purposes.