The Eastern Cape government is planning to boost its mental health services in the province with the construction of three new psychiatric units and the refurbishment of four others, at a cost of R1.8-billion.
The Elizabeth Donkin in Port Elizabeth is among those being refurbished.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said one of the three new facilities was being built at St Barnabas Hospital in Libode at a cost of more than R100-million.
“Before 1994, the former Transkei was only serviced by two psychiatric hospitals – Umzimkulu and Komani – and now the department has taken the decision to establish more,” he said.
The new facilities would include others in Mthatha and at Cecilia Makiwane in Mdantsane.
The three other existing facilities that would be refurbished were Komani in Komani (formerly Queenstown), Fort England in Grahamstown, and Tower Hospital in Fort Beaufort.
Kupelo said the department also planned to build a new psychiatric unit at EmaXesibeni (formerly Mount Ayliff) but a budget for this had yet to be set.
Some of the facilities were still in the planning stages.
“Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges in the province, with many mentally ill people rejected by their families.
“They are roaming the streets while relatives continue to collect their state grants on their behalf,” Kupelo said.
“When roaming the streets they are not only a danger to themselves but sometimes to others.”
He said about 2 000 psychiatric patients were being treated in various hospitals in the province, including 900 at Life Isidimeni in Port Elizabeth, a private facility contracted by the department for three years.
Completion of the St Barnabas project is due in September.