Current Affairs
Proposal for mental health care to be provided in the community not at hospitals

The patient is at the centre of the national health care strategy which is proposing that, as much as possible, care is provided within the community and not at hospitals. This can be done with the help of professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and even family doctors.

This is one of the 75 proposals in the national mental health strategy which will cover a period of ten years up to 2030. At this stage, the strategy has been put up for public consultation.

Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne said that it is estimated that at least one out of every two people at some point in their life will experience mental health issues, which can lead to depression, anxiety, loss of employment and in extreme cases, even death.

Within this context, the Minister said that the strategy goes beyond the work being done to make Mt Carmel more attractive, but it needs to address mental health care in a holistic way.   He said that the strategy places the patient at the heart of mental health care and pays attention to the needs of older people, those at risk of poverty, substance abusers and foreigners who live in Malta, who are also susceptible to mental health problems for different reasons.

Dr Fearne said that one can see signals from an early age in three-quarters of mental health issues. Therefore the strategy proposes a prevention service and community care: in schools and at the workplace with the participation of family doctors and NGOs. It is being proposed that mental health care start being provided at the same places as the treatment for other health problems. The Minister said that a new mental health care facility next to Mater Dei, which still needs to be built, will have the same entrance as the general hospital. He added that work on this is expected to start within the next two years, with plans for it to be ready by 2025.

He added that Mt Carmel will continue to be used by hundreds of patients who have been there for years and for whom there is no other alternative to live anywhere else. He explained that Mt Carmel will continue to be used by elderly people with mental health issues who need long-term treatment and as a rehab facility in a safe environment for people who suffer from substance abuse.

The Chairman of the mental health services, Dr Anton Grech said that although the strategy will come into effect in 2020, work will continue to take place with a stronger presence of the psychiatric department at the emergency ward, which from January will be available 24/7. Dr Grech said that treatment in mental health does not just consist of prescribing pills.

”This is a treatment which is integrated between a psychologist, occupational therapist, social workers, therapists and nurses. This strategy is intended to have a team of professionals which is accessible and closer to the patient by means of teams within the community.”

The public consultation on this strategy will close at the end of February.

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