By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com]–Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsaran has disclosed that himself along with several other Ministers are seriously considering invoking laws that would make it obligatory for youngsters to care for their immediate elderly relatives.
He acknowledged the fact that several elderly persons and in some cases young persons are abandoned at several public institutions including the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the National Psychiatric Hospital at Fort Canje, Region Six.
In fact, the Minister was responding to concerns brought to his attention by iNews as it relates to the operations and deplorable physical infrastructure at the mental health facility.
During a visit to the institution recently, iNews observed that there was some amount of persons who suffered from mental disorders being accommodated there.
The institution however, seemed to be acting more as a geriatric home, rehabilitation center and shelter; providing refuge for the homeless, drug addicts and disabled among others.
When questioned about this reality, Dr. Ramsaran acknowledged that these were indeed some of the challenges at the institution but assured that efforts, though costly, were being taken to have the situation rectified.
He said some of the contributing factors include the abandonment of physically ill persons at health institutions across the country and the neglect of other classes of relatives.
“Guyana was a caring nation where your grandmother and grandfather use to go home and sit in the hammock and you cared for them, we are losing that,” the Minister observed.
He said another issue is re – migrants, who are drug abusers, returning to Guyana with little or no family connections here.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ramsaran has promised to investigate reports of a pregnant 28 – year old woman whom iNews met along with her relatives when it visited the institution.
The woman, who identified herself, claimed that her father impregnated her and then enlisted her in the institution, claiming she was mentally unstable. The woman, who had visiting relatives at the time, substantiated her claim.
“We have no such report but I don’t deny that there is such a case existing, we will look into that,” the Minister assured while acknowledging that he has been delinquent in not visiting the hospital.
He said he is planning a trip soon because “it’s a national institution and there might be weaknesses but we are seriously and aggressively looking to put rehabilitation, disabilities and mental health on the front burner and quietly we have been doing that.”
Dr. Ramsaran said what is definitely needed is a multi-sectorial approach.
The National Psychiatric Hospital is the only one of its kind in Guyana that provides treatment and care for persons who have been deemed mentally ill.
iNews visited the female ward that currently houses some 29 women, all seemingly in their mid-twenties to fifties.
The women are being cared for by a woman who has been working at the institution for the past 14 years. Some of the patients in that ward have been admitted there for years and continue to be treated for various mental illnesses.
Some of the women are visited from time to time by their family members; however, others have been abandoned and the hospital has now become their permanent home.
Religious organizations would visit the women and hold church sessions with them. Some people also assist with clothing and other services for patients of the hospital.
Some of the patients at the hospital are recovering but have been abandoned by their relatives and have been living at the Psychiatric Hospital for a number of years. Some even work and attend church outside the hospital.
The male ward of the institution houses quite a number of men, some of them seem to be getting better, while others in the ‘acute ward’ have to be locked away in a room and are being treated accordingly for displaying severe aggression towards health officials and their fellow inmates.
Most of the men in the acute ward do not suffer from mental illnesses, but substance abuse and were taken to the institution for admittance.
A major concern is the fact that most of patients at the institution are not mentally ill, instead they suffer from substance abuse and are being dumped at the hospital.
However, one health official questioned what should they do, since it would be inhumane to throw them out on the streets. This has forced officials to allow the patients who are mostly men to remain and access the relevant treatment.