Speech by the Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, at the official opening of the new Mental Hospital

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Programme Director

Members of the Executive Council

The esteemed and honourable leaders of the opposition Mr Andrew Louw

Our esteemed Chief Whip Neo Maneng

The Chairperson of SCOPA Father Gift van Staden

Former MECs of Health

Members of the Provincial Legislature, MPS NCOP Members

Executive Mayors and councillors

Leaders of Political Parties Khathazile Tolong

The DG of the Province, HOD of Health and all Government Officials

Miss Northern Cape

Families of the patients

Members of the public

Members of the media

Ladies and gentlemen

I am delighted and honoured to join the people of the Northern Cape as we mark the official opening of the mental hospital. I am confident that the new state of the art facilities here at this hospital will radically improve the quality of health care provided to our people especially those who do not have access to quality health care, the working class and poor. We must use health economics to reignite our local economies. Just next to this structure we are constructing a nurse’s home, Nurses College and Emergency Medical Services College. These are massive infrastructure projects that will contribute positively to the GDP of the province and particularly Kimberley.

We know that the road we traversed to arrive at today was definitely not easy, it was a long and winding road full of pitfalls characterized by huge wastages of state resources. We commit that such will never be repeated in the Northern Cape, hence, we are introducing intervention programs to strengthen the capacity of the state  to plan, design and implement major infrastructure projects; more effectively and in a cost efficient  manner without unnecessary wastages.

For many years mental health services has been neglected. However, such neglect was not only in our country and the Northern Cape, but for the whole world in general. This is because mental conditions have been typified by varying degrees of social stigma, marginalization and sub-standard services.

As we stand on the threshold of the Universal Health Coverage and the National Health Insurance, I am able to say today that we in the Northern Cape are committed to radically reversing the situation of neglect of mental health patients. It is therefore with great pride and honour that today we cut the ribbon to ensure that without further delay our people have access to quality mental health care.

Programme Director, the CUTTING OF THE RIBBON signifies the opening and operationalization of the new Northern Cape Mental Hospital. It is a facility that has cost R1.3 billion to complete but it has emerged as a truly remarkable and state-of-the-art healthcare facility, a symbol of transformation and must be a Centre of excellence. This facility must restore dignity to the most vulnerable and the most fragile people of our society, the mentally ill. We can only achieve that if we commit to the Three Essentials for public servants, which are:

Be of service to the people,

Be pragmatic, and

Keep integrity.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is significant today that this event is being held on the eve of October, the World Mental Health Month. Historically speaking, psychiatric services in the Northern Cape have been highly fragmented. Previously they were provided at facilities in Bloemfontein and Cape Town. In 1991, the present West End Hospital in Kimberley was opened to provide acute, chronic and outpatient psychiatric services.  Although this was a major step, it has since fallen short of the norms and standards set out in the new Mental Health Act and its legislative reforms.

The new Mental Health Hospital has a capacity of 287 beds, and will be operationalized in phases over the MTEF period to provide for a full package of specialized mental health services.   These services will include:

  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services;
  • Forensic Mental Health Services;
  • General Adult Psychiatric services that includes;
  • Outpatient services;
  •  Services for co-morbid (dual diagnosis) patients;
  •  Services for victims of substance abuse; and
  •  Services for private patients.

Currently 160 clinical operational mental health beds have been successfully migrated from old West End Hospital, and 20 more are anticipated for Forensic Observation and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Care. We have appointed 70 security personnel in September 2018 as part of insourced service. We have further appointed additional staff to cater for the needs of the Hospital, in areas psychiatry, psychology, medical officers, nurses, social workers, and pharmacists. More clinical appointments will be completed by November this year to ensure the migration of the remaining 39 State Patients at the West End Hospital.

Continuous development and training of medical staff in mental health care issues is of fundamental importance, and so far 24 Primary Health Care medical doctors have received training on the management of mental health disorders. Other training, in partnership with the National Department of Health, has been provided to over 200 medical officers and professional nurses from all hospitals that have been identified to have mental health care units.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is worth noting that in the medium and long-term, the new Mental Health Hospital will make it possible to address key challenges outlined in the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan 2013 –  2020, such as:

  • scaling up decentralized integrated primary health services, including mental health care;
  • Increasing public awareness regarding mental health and reducing stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness;
  • promoting the mental health of the population through collaboration between the Department of Health and other sectors.
  • Empowering communities to participate in the promotion of mental well-being and recovery within the community.

Programme Director; allow me to dwell a bit on the most critical aspects of the service environment of mental healthcare in the province, and the immediate tasks that emanate therefrom. The outcomes of the National Mental Health Summit held in 2012 indicated that one of the key challenges in Mental Health continues to be the lack of professional leadership and management.

In order to reverse this, a dedicated Mental Health Directorate is in the process of being established through the advertisement of critical posts. Governance structures have also been identified as an area of weakness in the compliance cycle for mental healthcare and this is being addressed through a call for nominations to serve in the Mental Health Review Boards in all districts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, mental healthcare is grounded in the new prescripts of Primary Health Care as defined in the Primary Healthcare Reengineering. In accordance with this, mental healthcare is community-based; hence it is a strategic objective of Universal Health Coverage to establish District Specialist Mental Health Teams, consisting of Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers and Psychiatric Nurses.

Indeed Programme Director this will be a mountain to climb - taking into consideration the difficulty we have in attracting specialists to our province; nevertheless, we are committed to addressing all these challenges. We are not here to look for easy tasks.

In the same breath, beyond the opening of this landmark new facility, the upgrading of other infrastructure units of mental health care is critical, and the province has already identified 11 hospitals which will be refurbished to accommodate mental health units as part of the decentralized model. I must emphasize that, given the vastness of our province; the decentralization model of mental healthcare will work best for us.

Therefore, whilst the new Hospital will serve as a vital point of care for mental health, it is by no means intended to centralize mental health services; on the contrary, as a support base, it will actively promote the decentralization of mental health services.

Ladies and Gentlemen, mental health cannot be achieved without partnerships and collaboration, and I want to acknowledge the support that the Department of Correctional Services has continuously provided to the Department of Health with regards to Forensic Services. During the time that the Department of Health was unable to accommodate all State Patients, the Department of Correctional Services provided unfailing support in housing them. Similarly, we appreciate the collaboration established with other stakeholders, such as the Department of Social Development, South African Police Services, the Department of Justice, and others.

With regards to strengthening of information systems, evidence and research for mental health, we commit towards improving mental health technology, equipment and medicines. In collaboration with the service provider appointed for Patient Administration System, the hospital is earmarked to convert from manual to electronic filing system. This is line with our vision of building a modern province.

As I conclude I want to commit our Government’s recognition that good health is critical in enhancing human development and facilitating the process of economic growth and development. It is for this reason that we are implementing reforms in the health sector with a view of improving the quality of healthcare services to our people especially the working class and the poor.

The NHI must equalise access to quality health care for all, regardless of whether one is employed or unemployed, and regardless of one’s income category. We have observed an attack on the NHI. At the heart of those who are opposing the NHI are private monopoly financial interests and major companies in the private finance health industry some of them are listed on the JSE.

They make huge profits at the expense of our people, according to them people who do not have money must be left to die. This is not only inhumane, cruel and barbaric but goes against our fundamental principles of Ubuntu / Botho. The NHI must bring an end to this class inequality in health care. It is a chance for South Africans to contribute to the collective health and wellbeing of one another and to extend access to quality healthcare to everyone.

Ladies and gentlemen as you all know- this medical facility has been long in the waiting. However, today we have a facility counted amongst the best in the Continent and one we can truly be proud of. It is therefore my humble request that we should treasure ALL our Sate Facilities and take ownership of them. They are here to serve our people. And this facility especially will serve the most vulnerable in society. Take care of it, protect it and let us develop it into a centre of hope and light in the darkness as we march on toward the creation of a Modern, Growing and Successful Province.

 I thank you


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