Mental health to be outsourced

R120m Bhisho tender aimed at putting patients into communities

The Eastern Cape department of health has published its R120m tender to outsource chronic mental healthcare in the province – and has put emphasis on the reintegration of mental health patients into their communities.
Apart from chronic care, service providers have also been asked to tender for community-based initiatives to achieve this.
Seven hundred adult and 180 paediatric mental health patients are now being cared for in Life Esidimeni centres in Kirkwood and Bethelsdorp.
The tender documents show that the department is also seeking to distribute beds for chronic mental health patients across the province if possible.
Long-term patients are currently housed at the 700-bed Life Esidimeni Kirkwood facility and the 180 children at Life Esidimeni’s Algoa Frail Care Centre in Bethelsdorp.
Provincial health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha declined to elaborate on any of the information in the tender documents, saying this would compromise the tender process.
The documents state that the capacity of mental health services still needs to be developed to meet the demands of the province.
Rural communities, in particular, have limited access to services.
There is a severe shortage of acute medium- to long-term beds and state patient beds, and limited community-based mental health services.
“To cope with the deficit of beds, the province had to seek assistance [by] outsourcing chronic mental health services and community-based services to support the ailing system.
“The department wants to provide inpatient care, treatment and rehabilitation of some of these users with the intention for integration in their communities.”
The documents invite tenders for the provision of community-based rehabilitation services – a halfway house, a group residential home and a daycare centre – for mental healthcare users.
This, the department states, has been a long-standing need in the province and there is at present inadequate provision for the service.
“The situation is resulting [in] unavoidable massive overcrowding in almost all the mental health establishments,” it says in the documents.
“The services required are therapeutic chronic mental health services and community-based mental health rehabilitation programmes provided by exceptional, experienced professionals.”
National health spokesperson Popo Maja said officials were moving with great caution.
The contract with Life Esidimeni for the Algoa Frail Care Centre (for 180 children) and the Life Esidimeni Kirkwood Centre has been extended to December.
The DA’s Jane Cowley said she was happy to see the move on community care for mental health patients.
“Currently, our community based centres can cater for 70 beds,” she said.
“There are 649 patients at Kirkwood and 180 at Algoa Esidimeni, so if these centres close there is no way community centres can accommodate these patients.”

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